Oral Roberts braces for better matchup with Lady Vols

Tennessee sent Oral Roberts packing from its last trip to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Now, the Golden Eagles are back after a five-year absence and the Lady Vols await them as an opponent and host.

What are the odds?

Oral Roberts coach Misti Cussen hardly sounds burdened by any sense of deja vu. Likewise, the experience will be new for these players, as conveyed by the expressions Cussen sees on their faces.

“Some of them are still grinning from ear to ear,” Cussen said Wednesday.

No. 15 seed Oral Roberts (18-12) will face No. 2 seed Tennessee (24-7) at approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN2) at Thompson-Boling Arena. No. 7 seed Syracuse (24-7) plays No. 10 Creighton (24-7) at 11:20 a.m. to open a first-round doubleheader of the Oklahoma City regional.

The winners play at 7 p.m. Monday.

“If you’re going to play Tennessee, go to Knoxville, go experience that,” Cussen said. “We’re going to the promised land of women’s basketball.”

No matter the outcome, the experience has to be better than a 2008 first-round encounter with Tennessee in West Lafayette, Ind. The Golden Eagles suffered a tough blow just moments after the opening tip.

Guard Mariana Camargo, who was trying to outrace then-Lady Vols point guard Shannon Bobbitt for the basketball, slipped on a UT cheerleader’s sign that was lying on the floor behind the baseline. Camargo, who was the team’s second-leading scorer, tumbled to the floor with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.

Cussen, who’s in her first season as ORU’s coach, then was an assistant. She recalled coach Jerry Finkbeiner turning to the bench after Camargo’s injury and saying “Well, time to punt.” From that moment, the game plan was total improvisation.

“Offensively, everything went out the window,” Cussen said. “A strange thing.”

The Golden Eagles winged it in impressive fashion, hanging within 14 points of Tennessee at halftime and resisting the eventual 94-55 outcome until the final eight minutes.

In Oral Roberts’ other four NCAA appearances, the biggest margin of defeat was 21 points. Cussen, who’s been on ORU’s staff for all four games, said the real pressure is felt in surviving the conference tournament. Led by senior star Kevi Luper’s 26 points, Oral Roberts outlasted Sam Houston State 72-66 last Saturday to win the Southland Conference tournament.

“For 17 years, we’ve dealt with the pressure in our conference tournament, unlike BCS programs,” Cussen said. “All the pressure happened last week in Katy, Texas. If we don’t get the job done (there), we’re not going to the big dance. Our pressure-cooker moment is already over. It’s a joyful time for our program.”

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Comments » 8

ps11824 writes:

That is a great way to approach this game. I do hope the Lady Vols find a way to avoid an OR player 'going off' on us. I really want to stay positive with my comment but I have to feel certain we will give 100% effort in this 1st round. OR seems to be coming in with great reverence to their opportunity to play in Knoxville, to compete in "the promised land of women’s basketball.” Baby, that is a high complement.

We WILL NOT repeat the "half-hiney" performance seen at TBA last night. I wanted to vomit, but I thought, no, the Vols did not earn my energy to vomit. Instead, I will be high energy for the Lady Vols Saturday morning getting revved up for the dance. GO LADY VOLS!!!

AllforTenn writes:

A previous article stated the game will be televised on ESPN, this one states ESPN2, and in programing my DVR to record it I find it is listed on ESPNU at 1:30 p.m.

orangecountyvols writes:

The Lady Vols have received a wake up call ( in case it was even necessary ) by the pitiful men's performance.

IMO, they don't figure to sleep walk like the guy's did.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ps11824:

That is a great way to approach this game. I do hope the Lady Vols find a way to avoid an OR player 'going off' on us. I really want to stay positive with my comment but I have to feel certain we will give 100% effort in this 1st round. OR seems to be coming in with great reverence to their opportunity to play in Knoxville, to compete in "the promised land of women’s basketball.” Baby, that is a high complement.

We WILL NOT repeat the "half-hiney" performance seen at TBA last night. I wanted to vomit, but I thought, no, the Vols did not earn my energy to vomit. Instead, I will be high energy for the Lady Vols Saturday morning getting revved up for the dance. GO LADY VOLS!!!

Yeah, I watched the men's game in much the same frame of mind. I expected them to play flat and they didn't disappoint(:-/)! The ladies may not put the hammer down the way they can, but they should win comfortably, hopefully keep everybody healthy, and gear up for the next game in good shape so they can measure themselves against Baylor once more. But, PLEASE, no looking forward on YOUR part, ladies! You've got to GET there FIRST! Next year, everybody will be measuring themselves against the LVs, but THIS year you still have to measure your PRESENT selves against your BEST selves! That would be pretty darned good right there, right now!

madrigal writes:

Oral Roberts is like half the rest of the field, one and done. That's not to say they're easy, but they have an 18-12 record in a half-*** conference and I bet their RPI and schedule strength look pretty pitiful. Hope the Lady Vols rise up and smite them big time.

UTFAN1993 writes:

O.Roberts r.p.i. 93 with 6-10 road record s.o.s 137

U.T. 367-25 @ T.B.A._r.p.i. 7 & s.o.s 4

Go Lady Vols

ps11824 writes:

I feel like game 2 will envolve Syracuse - no walk in the park for us should we be blessed to compete after Saturday. 'Cuse looks solid to me on paper.

ps11824 writes:

[[[ "Our pressure-cooker moment
is already over. It’s a joyful time
for our program.” ]]]

"Playing with no pressure." says the OR coach? What about that? I'm hoping our Lady Vols are playing with the mindset of "Win & advance." Our opponent plays loose and glad to be in TBA, fine & dandy while we play smart, in control, with heart & desire to win THE FIRST game PERIOD!

I'm looking at last nights men's games and I know you guys are too. We've been there before and it hurts like the bellyache to NOT play up to expectations, and ... live with that feeling until next season. Fans don't want to be there. Lady Vols & coaches darn sure don't want to spend their off season dragging that baggage.

Mickey Dearstone said this morning that the Lady Vols are very capable of beating Baylor IF they can score in the 40%tile. He states with conviction, it can happen. He says too that BU has done just that in our last 3 meetings while we have not exceeded the 20%tile; sounds about what I recall, and I have not done my research there just going on recall.

Again I state we should not look beyond OR.

Good news: Holly just said when questioned, "Izzy is ready. She will play!"

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