Oral Roberts shocks Ohio State, first big upset of NCAA men’s college basketball tournament

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Oral Roberts players celebrate after beating Ohio State in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, Friday, March 19, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Oral Roberts welcomed the madness back to March.

The 15th-seeded Golden Eagles pulled off the first major upset of the first NCAA Tournament in two years, holding off second-seeded Big Ten power Ohio State 75-72 in overtime on Friday.

Oral Roberts got poised, impeccable performances from its two star players, guard Max Abmas and forward Kevin Obanor, to become the ninth 15 seed to win a first-round game and the first since Middle Tennessee shocked Michigan State in 2016. Last year’s tournament was called off because of the pandemic.

Obanor scored seven of Oral Roberts’ 11 points in overtime, including two free throws with 13 seconds left, and finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds. Abmas, the nation’s leading scorer, had 29 points.

Ohio State could have tied it in the closing seconds of overtime, but Duane Washington Jr.’s open 3-pointer from straight away bounced off the side of the rim, and Oral Roberts celebrated its first tournament win since 1974.

The Golden Eagles (17-10) advanced to play seventh-seeded Florida in the South Region on Sunday.

E.J. Liddell scored 23 points to lead the Buckeyes (21-10). Washington scored 18 but made just 7 of 21 shots.

Oral Roberts scored the game’s first seven points, including a 3-pointer by Abmas from the logo that drew a collective “Ooooh” from the socially distanced crowd.

The Buckeyes led by eight before the Golden Eagles rallied. Abmas hit a 3-pointer with about five minutes left in the first half to give Oral Roberts a 26-25 lead, prompting a chant of “O-R-U!” from the fans who traveled to support the small, Christian school based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He hit another 3 moments later to force an Ohio State timeout.

Abmas made 5 of 7 3-pointers in the first half and had 18 points at the break as the Golden Eagles led 36-33.

The Summit League champions led by seven in the second half before Ohio State rallied to take a 60-58 lead on a pullup jumper by CJ Walker with just under five minutes to play.

Obanor was fouled with 14 seconds to play, and he made both free throws to tie the game at 64. Washington missed a step-back jumper in the closing seconds.

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