Oral Roberts reached the cusp of NCAA Tournament history on Saturday night before No. 3 seed Arkansas stole a 72-70 victory in the final seconds. The Razorbacks stopped the Eagles from making history as they would have been the first No. 15 seed to ever reach the Elite Eight. However Max Abmas‘ last second 3-pointer hit the rim and bounced off, and the Razorbacks escaped.
Davonte Davis nailed a jumper with 3.1 seconds to give Arkansas the lead for good and carry it to victory. Arkansas will advance to play No. 1 seed Baylor on Monday with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
Jalen Tate led Arkansas with 22 points as the Razorbacks used a strong second half performance in a game that bore similarities to the first time Arkansas and Oral Roberts played this season. The Eagles led 40-30 at halftime on Dec. 20 before the Razorbacks roared back for an 87-76 victory.
This time, ORU led 35-28 at the break, and the Eagles actually grew that lead to 46-34 early in the second half. But the Razorbacks stormed back on Saturday, much like they did during the earlier meeting between the teams. Abmas led Oral Roberts with 25 points. The nation’s leading scorer got a great look in the final seconds. But when it clanged off the iron, the Eagles’ Cinderella run came to an end.
For an Arkansas team that had not been to a Sweet 16 since 1996, this marks a remarkable turnaround. In just his second season as coach, Eric Musselman has entirely revamped the roster and programmed a group consisting primarily of transfers and freshmen into one of the best teams in the country.
Oral Roberts, meanwhile, will return home with a set of memories that should last a lifetime. Here are some takeaways from the end of the Eagles’ run.
A run to remember
This one will sting for Oral Roberts, no doubt. The program was so close to advancing to the Elite Eight that it came down to just inches on a last-second shot. But when the dust settles, the Eagles’ two victories in the Big Dance will go down in history.
They joined the 2013 Florida Gulf Coast team as the only No. 15 seeds to ever reach the Sweet 16. An overtime victory over No. 2 seed Ohio State was an all-time NCAA Tournament upset, and a dramatic victory over No. 7 seed Florida in the second round was also a game to remember and could be the building blocks to putting this program on the map.
Max Abmas is a star
As if majoring in biomedical chemistry is not stressful enough, try also leading the country in scoring at the same time. That’s the life of Max Abmas, and he certainly does it well. The 6-foot-1 sophomore was already well known in the Summit League. Now he’s known throughout college basketball.
Abmas and fellow star Kevin Obanor etched their names in NCAA Tournament lore with heroic individual performances that propelled ORU’s run. Obanor recorded three consecutive double-doubles while averaging 23.3 points in the NCAA Tournament. Abmas averaged 26.7 points during the run.
Paul Mills is on the map
Abmas and Obanor weren’t the only personalities at Oral Roberts to make a name for themselves. Coach Paul Mills is now on the national radar as well. He inherited an 8-win team after the 2016-17 season and took it to the Sweet 16 within four years.
Given that he spent 14 years on the Baylor staff as an assistant, Mills has the right combination of success on his resume now to warrant a look from a high-major job. Or, if Abmas and Obanor plan to stick around, he could stay Oral Roberts and build it into a mid-major power. Either way, this tournament did wonders for his career.