Oral Roberts shocks Ohio State, first big upset of NCAAs

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Oral Roberts players celebrate after beating Ohio State in a first-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Friday, March 19, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Ohio State's players were dancing around in the moments before tipoff against Oral Roberts, relaxed and full of swagger.

The Buckeyes aren't dancing anymore. The 15th-seeded Golden Eagles pulled off the first major upset of the first NCAA Tournament in two years, holding off second-seeded Ohio State 75-72 in overtime on Friday.

“When they rank them, it was only just a number at the end of the day,” said Kevin Obanor, who led Oral Roberts with 30 points and 11 rebounds. “We put our shoes on just as the other team puts their shoes on. We just had the mindset of, ‘Show us that you deserve to be No. 2,’ and we came out with a lot of confidence.”

Oral Roberts got poised, impeccable performances from its two stars, Obanor and guard Max Abmas, to become the ninth 15 seed to win a first-round game and the first since Middle Tennessee shocked Michigan State in 2016. Last year's tournament was called off because of the pandemic.

Obanor scored seven of Oral Roberts' 11 points in overtime, including two free throws with 13 seconds left. Abmas, the nation’s leading scorer, had 29 points.

“Their two players that obviously concerned us were terrific, so give them, their coaches, their players, their program, their university a lot of credit for this win,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “We had no illusions that this was going to be by any stretch anything other than a really challenging game, and it obviously was that from the very jump.”

Ohio State could have tied it in the closing seconds of overtime, but Duane Washington Jr.’s open 3-pointer from straight away bounced off the side of the rim, and Oral Roberts celebrated its first tournament win since 1974.

The Golden Eagles' roster is full of lightly recruited players who found their way to the small, private Christian school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Summit League champions bowed their heads in a prayer circle after their victory over the Big Ten power.