Oral Roberts drops Loyola Marymount in first round

Beth Bragg
Ashley Hamilton, of Loyola Marymount, looks for the open man as Shawn Glover, of Oral Roberts, defends in a first round basketball game in the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout at the Sullivan Arena on Thursday, November 22, 2012. 121122
Bob Hallinen
Ashley Hamilton and Nick Stover, of Loyola Marymount, go up to defend against D.J. Jackson, of Oral Roberts, as he goes up for the basket in a first round basketball game in the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout at the Sullivan Arena on Thursday, November 22, 2012. 121122
Bob Hallinen

If Warren Niles and the Oral Roberts basketball team do for the rest of the season what they did in the second half Thursday, he and the Golden Eagles will be all you hear about come March.

Niles hit eight of his nine attempts to help the Golden Eagles shoot 64 percent in the second half and subdue Loyola Marymount 75-66 in a first-round Great Alaska Shootout game at Sullivan Arena.

The win puts Hydaburg's Damen Bell-Holter in a Friday semifinal game against the winner of Thursday's late game between Texas State and Charlotte. Bell-Holter, a 6-foot-9 senior center, ripped down a game-high 13 rebounds and scored eight points.

"All my family was in the stands, and that's only happened two or three times in the last four years," said Bell-Holter, who starred in high school for Ketchikan. "It was a great experience to see family and friends in the stands."

Niles, a 6-5 senior guard, buried 5 of 6 from 3-point range and showed off some flashy moves to the hoop to finish with a career-high 33 points. He did most of the damage in the second half, scoring 14 points in the first eight minutes, nine of them in a 96-second span.

"After the first half, I felt hot after I hit the first 3 and got it going," Niles said. "That's how I get rolling -- if I hit one, I get a lot of confidence."

Niles was dripping with confidence as he drilled long 3-pointers from the top of the key, dribbled behind his back to blow past defenders and powered in for layups. His fabulous second-half performance allowed Oral Roberts (3-1) to pull away from the Lions (2-2).

"Niles is as hot as any player in America right now," Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said. "He's been like that the last two games too."

Niles is averaging just under 24 points a game this season and nearly 30 in his last three games (29 points vs. St. Gregory's, 26 points vs. Pacific, 33 points Thursday). He's always been a shooter and a scorer, Sutton said, but this season he's handling contact better and finishing plays.

Loyola coach Max Good contended that his players made Niles look even better than he is.

"They decided they want Warren Niles to go right to the Hall of Fame in Springfield after this year," Good said. "He's not a driver, he's a shooter, but we just didn't do a good job of guarding him at all."

Loyola's offensive answer to Niles was Anthony Ireland, a 5-10 junior guard who pumped in 30 points on 11 of 21 shooting. He scored his team's final eight points in a desperate effort to bring the Lions back in the final 1 minute, 24 seconds.

Loyola held a tenuous lead through much of a tightly contested first half before Niles gave Oral Roberts its first lead, 26-25, with a 3-pointer at 3:15.

The Golden Eagles led 30-27 at the half and grabbed command early in the second half. Steven Roundtree provided the initial spark, scoring two straight layups and then drawing a charge to force a turnover.

Oral Roberts converted with the 3-pointer that got Niles going, and at the 17:43 mark the Golden Eagles' lead swelled to 37-27.

With Niles leading the way, Oral Roberts hit 16 of 25 shots in the second half, or 64 percent.

"We shoot 65 percent the rest of the year, we're not gonna lose many games," Sutton said.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (66) -- Ireland 11-21 4-6 30, Hamilton 4-15 5-5 15, Okonji 1-2 0-0 2, Flint 1-3 2-2 4, Egbeyemi 4-9 2-2 10, Blackwell 1-2 0-0 3, Stover 0-5 0-0 0, Osborne 1-1 0-0 2, Mornar 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 12-14 29.

ORAL ROBERTS (75) -- Glover 4-11 2-3 11, Niles 11-15 6-6 33, Roundtree 4-9 2-2 10, Billbury 2-4 2-2 6, Bell-Holter 3-8 2-3 8, Jackson 0-0 2-2 2, Lliteras 1-2 0-0 2, Manghum 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 26-50 16-20 75.

Loyola 27 39 -- 66

Oral Roberts 30 45 -- 75

3-point goals -- Loyola 6-19 (Ireland 4-5, Hamilton 1-4, Flint 0-2, Egbeyemi 0-3, Blackwell 1-2, Stover 0-2), Oral Roberts 7-13 (Glover 1-3, Niles 5-6, Billbury 0-1, Bell-Holter 0-2, Manghum 1-1). Rebounds -- LMU 29 (3 with 5), ORU 32 (Bell-Holter 13). Total fouls -- LMU 18, ORU 14. Fouled out -- none. Assists -- LMU 12 (Stover 4), ORU 17 (Billbury 5). Turnovers -- LMU 16 (Ireland 5, Hamilton 5), ORU 19 (Niles 5). Steals -- LMU 7 (Ireland 3), ORU 9 (4 with 2). Blocked shots -- LMU 1, ORU 6 (Glover 2, Roundtree 2). Referees -- Shields, McNew, Shamion. A -- 4,141 (announced).