Oral Roberts sent a harsh goodbye to the Oakland women’s basketball team on Monday night, handing the Golden Grizzlies a 77-51 loss in Oakland’s final home game of the season.
With Oral Roberts (19-9, 13-4 Summit League) leaving the Summit League at the end of the season for the Southland Conference, this game marked the last regular season contest that will occur between the two bitter league rivals.
Oakland (11-14, 7-9) stumbled out of the gate, surrendering a 10-0 run to the Golden Eagles that put ORU ahead 19-4 early in the first half. The Grizzlies were never able to regain control as they trailed for the entirety of the game.
“It was just one of those nights where we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Oakland head coach Becky Francis said. “We had six players that were a combined 0-15 from the floor and only five players made a shot. You cannot win a basketball game that way.”
The Golden Grizzlies shot a season-low 28.8 percent from the floor, and simply could not find a way to penetrate Oral Robert’s stingy defense.
“They slow you up with their zone defense and you can get passive and then you have only 15 seconds to run your offense,” Francis said. “It’s a very good strategy, it’s why they win a lot of games, and it takes youthful teams used to attacking that kind of defense.”
Oakland’s youthful team struggled on a night in which two veterans were honored. Sharise Calhoun and Brittany Carnago both played their final game on the O’rena hardwood. The two senior captains both played with high emotion, but only managed to combine for 10 points in the contest.
“The one positive of tonight was that Sharise and Brittany were honored as seniors,” Francis said. “We are just so proud of what they have contributed to this program, they are unbelievable players, and we are really going to miss them.”
Carnago spent five years at Oakland and during her time became one of the most fearsome defenders in school history. She finished the game with three blocks, pushing her career total to 271, which is top in the Oakland record books.
“I’ve had a lot wonderful memories, from all of the summer workouts with the blood, sweat and tears to the time we beat Florida State, a top 25 team my freshman year,” Carnago said. “It has had its ups and downs, but I will always remember playing here and what a wonderful experience I’ve had.”
While Carnago has made a name for herself on the defensive side of the court, Calhoun has earned a reputation for her offense. This season, Calhoun passed the 1,000 career point mark, becoming just the 25th player in school history to do so.
“Every game here has been a joy and honor,” Calhoun said. “Just to be in this jersey and play here for four year, every moment was amazing and I will cherish all of those memories.”
While Senior Night was a memorable time for the two seniors, their families and fans, it was largely a forgettable performance on the court. The 77 points scored by Oral Roberts marked the most given up by Oakland at home this season.
Coupled with the high octane offense of the Golden Eagles, the Golden Grizzlies dug themselves too deep a hole with many mistakes. Oakland committed 20 turnovers on the night, including six in the first six minutes of the second half.
During that stretch, Oakland failed to notch a field goal and allowed Oral Roberts to balloon its lead to 26 points, which ended up being their final margin of victory.
Oakland could not contain Oral Robert’s star player, junior Kevi Luper. Luper led all scorers with 27 points, as well as collecting a game-high eight rebounds.
“She (Luper) is one of the top players in the country, she led the nation in scoring last year, and they have a nice combination of three guards of (Luper), (Georgia) Jones, and (Jaci) Bigham,” Francis said. “It was especially hard without Zakiya Minifee (lost for the season due to injury), who locked them up last year in the tournament.”
Jones added 14 and Bigham chipped in eight to help ORU to its third straight win and complete the season sweep of Oakland following a 62-53 win over the Golden Grizzlies on Jan. 21 in Tulsa, Okla.
For the Golden Grizzlies, junior forward Bethany Watterworth led with 20 points. It was the 13th time this season that Watterworth has scored at least 20 points this season.
Sophomore guard Victoria Lipscomb had 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds to aid the Oakland attack.
Despite the loss, the team is keeping its head up and looking ahead to the upcoming postseason.
“They exposed some of our weaknesses tonight, but we can focus on them,” Carnago said. “We’re going to face them (Oral Roberts) in the tournament and take what we learned tonight and play better the next time we see them.”
Before Oakland can go on to the Summit League tournament which begins on Mar. 3, Oakland must finish out the season with a two game roadtrip. The Golden Grizzlies visit South Dakota on Saturday, Feb. 25 and conclude the season on Feb. 27 at UMKC.