No. 10 Tennessee 83, Oral Roberts 62
Oral Roberts’ point guards keep running into misfortune whenever
the Golden Eagles play at Tennessee.
In Oral Roberts’ last NCAA tournament appearance back in 2008,
the Golden Eagles lost their leading scorer soon after the opening
tip against Tennessee when point guard Mariana Camargo injured her
They faced Tennessee in the NCAA tournament again Saturday, but
senior point guard Jaci Bigham was battling a stomach virus that
had bothered her for a few days.
Bigham played anyway, but she struggled all day as Oral Roberts
dropped a first-round game 83-62 to Tennessee, the No. 2 seed in
the Oklahoma City Regional. Tennessee will face No. 10 seed
Creighton on Monday.
”I don’t think I’ve ever been that sick before,” Bigham said.
”I was pretty bad, just trying to get my fluids and trying to stay
hydrated. It was a long couple of days. I’d never played under
those conditions. The trainers did a good job of getting me back,
but I just didn’t have my legs under me.”
Bigham, the Golden Eagles’ career assists leader, entered the
day averaging 12.7 points and 6.9 assists per game. She shot 1 of 9
on Saturday and had three points, two assists and five
”Jaci’s probably been able to take in about 500 calories in the
last 48 hours,” Oral Roberts coach Misti Cussen said. ”She’s been
extremely sick. I would have loved to have a healthy Jaci Bigham
coming to Knoxville, Tenn., today.”
Without Camargo in the 2008 tournament, Oral Roberts got blown
out 94-55 by a Tennessee team that went on to win the national
This time, the Golden Eagles were more competitive.
Oral Roberts (18-13) led for the first few minutes and stayed
relatively close for most of the first half before Tennessee pulled
away. The Golden Eagles committed 20 turnovers and couldn’t survive
a 5 1/2-minute scoring drought to start the second half.
Kevi Luper, a three-time Summit League player of the year, had
20 points and ended her career as Oral Roberts’ leading scorer with
2,867 career points.
Taylor Cooper and Savanna Buck scored 15 each for the Golden
”Oral Roberts is a tough team, a very well-coached, very
disciplined team (that) plays hard,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick
said. ”They play hard all the time. We were very concerned with
their pressure, their ability to score, their ability to shoot the
3. We had to come ready to play.”
The Golden Eagles led for the first three minutes before
Tennessee pulled ahead for good with a 15-3 run that turned a 7-5
deficit into a 20-10 advantage. Simmons scored Tennessee’s first 10
points during that spurt, including a 3-pointer that broke a 7-7
Simmons said she liked the fact that Oral Roberts put up more of
a fight than the typical No. 15 seed.
”I prefer a challenge, personally,” Simmons said. ”The rest
of the games aren’t going to be easy. You don’t want to just breeze
through the first round and then come up the next game and
everything is difficult. I’d rather be tested early on.”
The Golden Eagles continued to hang around for most of the first
half and cut Tennessee’s lead to 29-24 on Cooper’s two free throws
with 5:42 left in the half, but the Lady Vols responded and
extended their advantage to 44-31 by halftime
”We thought we still had a good chance,” Bigham said. ”We
just had to make a strong run.”
Tennessee made sure that didn’t happen..
Oral Roberts missed its first 11 shots in the second half before
Christian Key sank a 3-pointer with 14:16 remaining. Tennessee
reeled off 11 straight points to open the half and eventually led
by as many as 26.
”We started out behind the 8-ball,” Cussen said. ”You come
into Knoxville, and you already have a small margin of error
because they’re playing their first-round game on their home
”They were ready to go and we didn’t have the legs to match