TULSA, Okla. - As it does every year, the Oral Roberts University men's basketball program had NCAA Tournament hopes entering the 2013-14 season, and a victory in the PSO Mayor's Cup to start the season did nothing to dispel those expectations. Despite 10 new faces on the roster, the Golden Eagles knew they had the talent to compete with anyone in the nation.
ORU got the opportunity to prove it all season long, facing 11 different teams that played in postseason tournaments, including seven different NCAA Tournament teams.
Senior Shawn Glover led the way for ORU all season offensively and the First Team All-Conference selection averaged 21.3 points per game, becoming the first player since Caleb Green (2006-07) to average better than 20 points per game in a season. His total was also the most since Ray Thompson averaged 23.6 points per game during the 1992-93 campaign. Glover was also named to the Southland Conference All-Defensive team after posting 53 blocks, 38 in conference play which was tied for the most in the SLC. In just two seasons with ORU, Glover jumped up the record books and finished 19th in career scoring at 1,178 points, tying Mark Acres as the 9th fastest to 1,000 points. His 703 points as a senior are the third most in a year in ORU history and his 97 career blocks puts him eighth on the ORU career list.
"Shawn had a great year offensively," Coach Scott Sutton told the Tulsa World. "He was always the center of the opposing team's attention as far as the defense is concerned. He just hit tough shots. He lived on 15- to 17-feet contested jumpers, and he was great at it."
Redshirt-sophomore Korey Billbury also had a terrific year, coming on strong at the end of the season to score at least 20 points in 10 of the last 14 games. He was also the leading rebounder on the team to a tune of 6.8 rebounds per game. In doing so, he became the shortest player (6-3) to lead the team in rebounds in ORU history, edging out Arnold Coles (1966-67) and Carl Hardaway (1968-69), both of whom were 6-4. Perhaps his best game was against New Orleans, when Billbury had 21 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, narrowly missing out on becoming the second player in ORU history to record a triple double.
"The last six weeks or so he was one of the better players in our league," Sutton said in a postseason interview. "I was so happy for him that he got honored with second team, and I think for the next two years he is a guy who should be a first-team all-league selection."
ORU got performances from all over the roster over the course of the year, with 11 different players recording at least 10 points in a game and four different players recording10 rebounds in at least one game. Senior walk-on David Mason left his mark with 10 assists against Dallas Baptist, becoming the 21st different player in ORU history to reach double figure assists in a game. Like Billbury, sophomore Brandon Conley asserted himself more in the latter stages of the season, scoring at least 10 points in four of the last eight games, and averaged six rebounds a game during that stretch.
With two 20-point performances in the first three games of the year, sophomore Obi Emegano looked poised to team up with Glover and Billbury to make up a dynamic lineup for Coach Scott Sutton. Unfortunately, the three-headed monster took a hit when Emegano went down with a torn ACL in the fourth game of the year.
Forced to forge ahead, the Golden Eagles regrouped and had No. 12 Wisconsin feeling a bit nervous in a November 23 contest in Madison as ORU trimmed a17-point lead down to four in the final minutes. Despite not coming away with the upset, the game gave the Golden Eagles confidence as they traveled to Mexico for the final two games of the 2013 Cancun Challenge, winning the Mayan Division Championship with Glover earning tournament MVP honors and Billbury earning a spot on the all-tournament team.
Another big upset slipped away from ORU as the Golden Eagles traveled up to No. 11 Wichita State, holding a 30-22 lead at halftime on a team that ended up finishing the regular season undefeated.
Losses in four of the last five non-conference games, including two to nationally ranked teams, had ORU reeling a bit when Southland Conference play began, but a key stretch by freshman Bobby Word in which he hit five consecutive 3-pointers in the conference opener against Houston Baptist, marked a 20-0 run to propel the Golden Eagles to a 33-point victory.
A loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and win over Central Arkansas put ORU at 2-1 in conference play, and a scheduling glitch threatened to force ORU to forfeit league contests against Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word that would put ORU over the allowable four non-Division I games.
With the outcome of an appeal still in the balance, the Golden Eagles traveled to Abilene and prepared for a game, not knowing if it would actually be played or not. The answer that the games were on came Thursday morning and ORU swept the road double header, including a game-winner with one second left on the clock to beat UIW.
What seemingly should have given the team even more momentum swung the other way, and a difficult stretch saw ORU hit a four-game losing skid. In the first three losses, ORU lost by a total of eight points, including a one-point overtime loss at Nicholls State.
Again the team regrouped and won six of the next seven games, leaving one of the most difficult road swings to end the season, including a game against undefeated Stephen F. Austin.
ORU dropped both games and finished the season tied for fifth in the standings, getting the sixth seed in the tournament due to the loss at Nicholls. It was the lowest finish since 2001, when ORU was 10-19 overall, 7-7 in the Mid-Continent Conference and finished tied for seventh.
A first round matchup against McNeese State went the way of ORU as the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 15-point lead and held on to advance to meet Sam Houston State, a team they had beaten two weeks prior, but had knocked them out of the tournament a year ago.
With a game under their belt already, the Golden Eagles thought they might have an advantage over the Bearkats, but a 9-for-11 start from 3-point range pushed Sam Houston past ORU for a second-straight year, and brought the Golden Eagle's season to an end after ORU failed to make a postseason tournament.
ORU had made a postseason tournament in each of the last three seasons.
"We didn't deserve it. This team wasn't good enough. I don't know how many teams play postseason, but there were teams in our league who were much more deserving to go in postseason than we were."
Although the 2013-14 season was not what everyone hoped it would be, the Golden Eagles graduated just two seniors (Glover and Mason) from the team, leaving a cast of experienced players to right the ship and bring the Golden Eagles back to national prominence in 2014-15.