Arizona and Mark Lyons have been the talk of Tucson and the country since the point guard hit a game-winning shot that completed an eleven-point comeback over Florida. It was the Wildcats' biggest win of the year so far and a signature moment of the young season.
Now, with a spotless 8-0 record, Arizona will have to avoid a let down against a quietly dangerous Oral Roberts team. That may seem surprising given the Golden Eagles’ 5-4 record, but they have dropped games to teams such as a one-loss Charlotte squad and NCAA tournament hopeful Belmont. It may also be helpful to note that Oral Roberts has only played two true road games this season.
Scott Sutton, son of retired coaching great Eddie Sutton, coaches the Golden Eagles. He is in his 14th season with Oral Roberts, amassing a 255-166 overall record in that time period. Last season, Sutton coached his team to an NIT appearance and was named The Summit League Coach of the Year.
The Golden Eagles have done some lineup adjustments since the beginning of the year, but the production has been consistent, with four players averaging double digits.
The leading scorer has been Warren Niles, who is 12th in the nation with 20.9 points per game. The senior’s threat lies beyond the arc, as Niles is also 6th in the country in three-point field goal percentage (51.9-percent). At 6-foot-5, Niles is the tallest of the guards in the starting lineup and should draw the defensive attention of Nick Johnson for a majority of the game. That matchup may be the difference in how close the game is.
Recently, Oral Roberts has found increasingly productive guard play from redshirt freshman D.J. Jackson. The point guard broke into the starting lineup just two games ago, but has ran the offense with ease and helped the Golden Eagles win two straight games. Jackson hasn’t contributed much on the scoring end, but has dished out 22 assists in nine games, while turning the ball over just eight times.
At small forward, Shawn Glover is the team’s second leading scorer, putting up 11.3 points per game. The 6-foot-7 junior gets after it on the defensive side of the ball as well. Glover has 13 blocks and 12 steals so far, which are both good enough for best on the team. He can also step out and hit outside shots, so it will be important for Solomon Hill to keep track of the forward throughout the game.
Just an inch taller, Steven Roundtree will get the start at the power forward position. Also a junior, Roundtree is the next in line of production for Oral Roberts. He is one of the all-around players for the Golden Eagles, grabbing nearly seven boards and scoring 10.6 points per night. He is a solid player that should serve as a good challenge for Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley.
Damen Bell-Holter will be called on to matchup with Kaleb Tarczewski. The 6-foot-9 senior is the team’s leading rebounder with 8.6 each time out., including more than three offensive rebounds per game. That is an interesting stat to watch as the Wildcats were out-rebound in the win over Florida and are looking to improve in that category.
The first guard off the bench will likely be Korey Billbury. The redshirt freshman began the season as the starting point guard, but lost that job after his performance dropped off. Billbury is still averaging 22 minutes per game, but has been turnover prone throughout the season. His presence in McKale could be shown on defense as he has stolen 11 balls this year.
Redshirt junior Mikey Manghum will also see quality minutes off the bench. Manghum is a pass-first guard and has a strange statistic. He has only taken one two-point field goal attempt this season. However, he is 8-18 from three-point range and could be a threat if he gets on a roll.
Jorden Kaufman is another Golden Eagle who could see playing time on Tuesday. The 7-foot freshman has been called on at times to offset height advantages for opposing teams. He has played in every game, seeing more time in some games than others. Look for Kaufman to be called on if Tarczewski is playing a big factor in the direction of the game.
Arizona will be facing a team that is still looking for a signature non-conference win. It could become dangerous for the Wildcats if they come out slow after the big win over Florida.
With the non-conference schedule quickly coming to a close and a trip to Hawaii on the horizon, it is important that Arizona holds serve and protects its home court.
The Wildcats seem to be improving with each and every game. After the recent tests of Florida and Clemson, this game against Oral Roberts is a test of how much the team has matured and learned over the past few weeks.