TULSA, Okla. -
Harding University built a 13-point halftime lead and never looked back, stunning Oral Roberts University, 68-54, in ORU's 2012-13 exhibition opener. The setback is the first for the Golden Eagles to a non-NCAA Division I opponent since a 66-63 loss to East Texas Baptist on February 7, 1994.
Kevi Luper was the only Golden Eagle in double figures, with 21 points on 8-for-19 shooting. Christian Key added seven points off the bench, while Savanna Buck and Sarah Shelton each tallied a team-best six rebounds.
ORU shot just 36.7% as a team and committed 19 turnovers.
The loss came in Head Coach Misti Cussen's debut game in charge of the Golden Eagle program.
Shana Holmes led the Bisons with 17 points, while Montana Lewis and Arielle Saunders each scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Harding shot 36.2% as a club. The visitors gained their biggest advantage at the free throw line, where they were 18-of-23 (78.3%) and ORU was just 4-of-10 (40.0%).
ORU got off to a rough start, missing 13 of their first 20 shots. The Bisons capitalized, taking a 24-15 lead at the 5:48 mark on a Holmes three-pointer.
The road side continued to lead throughout the first half. A 10-0 run, capped by an Anna Strickland basket, stretched the advantage to 34-18 with 1:32 left in the half, and Harding led at the break, 34-21.
Luper had 10 points to lead all scorers at the half, while Lewis led Harding with seven.
The start of the second half didn't do much to change ORU's prospects. Holmes scored a pair of baskets in a two-minute stretch as the visitors took a 38-23 lead with 17:29 on the clock.
Harding continued to respond in key moments, fighting back when ORU tried to rally. After a Key bucket cut the gap to 40-30 with 15:08 on the clock, the Bisons built the lead back up. Five straight points from reserve guard Dashelle Isaac-Boyce stretched HU's lead to 51-34 with 11:12 remaining.
The Golden Eagles finally shifted into gear at the 10:41 mark, when Luper hit a spot-up three-pointer. The three-ball kicked off a 13-0 ORU run, capped by a Taylor Cooper three, that made the score 51-47 with 6:20 left.
But the visitors again responded with class, equaling ORU's 13-0 run and restoring their 17-point lead. Holmes scored seven points during the stretch, including a pair of free throws to make the lead 64-47 with just 3:02 remaining.
That rally zapped ORU's chances of taking the win. A pair of late buckets by Emma Gade was a consolation prize for the Golden Eagles, who fell by 14 points in front of the Mabee Center crowd.
Three players made their ORU debuts in the loss. Shelton tallied four points and four blocks to go along with her six rebounds, while Cooper scored three points. Freshman Krisztina Velkey added four points and a pair of rebounds.
ORU looks for their first exhibition win on Saturday, November 3, when they face Oklahoma Baptist. Tip-off at the Mabee Center is scheduled for 7 pm CT.