Oral Roberts reaches Sweet 16

Oral Roberts, a private evangelical university in Oklahoma, became the second 15th-seeded men’s Division I team in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Sweet 16.

The Golden Eagles achieved the feat with an 81-78 upset victory over the seventh-seed University of Florida Gators on Sunday in Indianapolis.

Florida Gulf Coast, in 2013, was the first — and only other — No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16.

Golden Eagles coach Paul Mills’ club knocked off No. 2 seed Ohio State in overtime in the first round. It was the Golden Eagles’ first tourney victory since 1974.

Oral Roberts (18-10), which overcame a 12-point deficit against Florida, meets third-seeded Arkansas next weekend in the Round of 16. The South Region clash will be a rematch of a Dec. 20 game (Arkansas, 87, Oral Roberts 76), but one with much higher stakes.

Mills, for one, is not backing down to anybody.

His message? “As I told the guys, we’re not going to let somebody put a number in front of our name and tell us that that’s our worth, or that’s our value,” Mills revealed to reporters. “We’re not capitulating to anybody here.”

Oral Roberts gets big boost from stars

Max Abmas, the NCAA’s leading scorer (24.4 points per game), sparked Oral Roberts with 26 points and seven assists. The sophomore guard was 12-for-12 at the free-throw line. Teammate Kevin Obanor provided 28 points and 11 rebounds.

Obanor and Abmas scored 30 and 29 points, respectively, against Ohio State.

The big difference for Oral Roberts

In a down-to-the-wire game, Oral Roberts used tough defense to seal the win.

Noah Locke scored Florida’s final points on a jump shot with 2:30 remaining, and the Golden Eagles defense denied the Gators another basket the rest of the way.

Top Florida contributors

Tre Mann scored a team-high 19 points for the Gators (15-10). Noah Locke chipped in with 17 points and Colin Castleton and Tyree Appleby both scored 14.

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