IUPUI Sports Information
TULSA, Okla. -- In its first-ever Summit League Championship appearance, the IUPUI Jaguars ran out of gas in the second half, dropping a 66-53 heartbreaker to Oral Roberts Tuesday afternoon at John Q. Hammons Arena at the UMAC. The loss ends IUPUI's season at 17-16, while ORU moves to 19-13 and will represent the Summit League as tournament champions in the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Tournament.
Sophomore center Julia Whitted led the Jags with her third double-double of the tournament--15 points and 10 rebounds - earning All-Tournament Team honors. Freshman guard Nicole James added 12 points for the Jags, while junior forward Jernisha Cann scored nine points and also was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Oral Roberts junior guard Rachel Watman led the way for ORU, scoring 23 points on 4-of-6 second-half shooting from beyond the arc, en route to being named All-Tourney MVP. Sophomore forward Janae Voelker added 12 points, all on three-pointers.
"I think the real problem for us is we weren't able to get into any kind of a rhythm," said IUPUI Head Coach Shann Hart. "I don't think it was necessarily anything oral Roberts did or didn't do. It was things that we didn't do ourselves. We're not leading the league in defense for nothing, but our defense wasn't there today."
While defense was critical in the Jags' run to the championship, ORU was sparked by a second-half in which they shot 57.9 percent from the field and a used a 13-4 run midway though the second stanza to put the game out of reach. Their long-range barrage turned a 35-34 defensive struggle into a 61-46 Oral Roberts advantage with 5:53 left on the clock.
During the run, ORU hit 7-of-8 three-pointers, four of them coming from Watman. On the opposite end of the court, the Golden Eagles held Whitted to five second half points.
"It's always hard to deal with three people around you with limited space," said Whitted. "I didn't do a good job of handling the pressure as well as I should have or wanted to."
ORU entered the game determined to set the offensive pace. Sophomore forward Janae Voelker hit a three-pointer to open the game and continued to be a perimeter shooter, belying her size and strength as an interior player. The Jaguars responded with a Whitted lay-up 90 seconds into the game, but an imbalanced landing caused her to turn her ankle and take an early seat on the bench.
With action taking place on the court, the IUPUI faithful in attendance had their eyes fixed squarely on the bench, where team trainers tended to Whitted's right ankle. With the center on the bench, the Jaguars maintained focus to take a scant 8-7 lead early.
Upon her return, Whitted scored the next four points for IUPUI, but ORU's offense wrested control of the game, reeling off six consecutive points from Brittany Camargo, Monah Pegorari and Watman. Brittany Ransom drove the lane to tie the game at 14 apiece, but Watman quickly responded with a layup, giving ORU the lead at 16-14 with about 11 minutes remaining in the half.
At the end of the half, both teams were virtually identical on the stat sheet - field goal percentage (IUPUI-37.5 percent, ORU 37.9 percent), rebounding (20 each) - neither team would grab a lead larger than four. A Voelker three-pointer with 8:20 remaining pushed ORU's lead to 21-17, but she would miss her next five field goal attempts, continuing to settle for threes. Watman continued to be the steady offensive force, finishing the half with 10 points.
IUPUI also fell in love with the long ball, hitting just 1-of-8 from three-point land, but Whitted's 5-of-10 from the field gave her 10 first-half points to lead the Jags. She also had six rebounds and a pair of blocks in the opening period as ORU led 29-28 going into halftime.
Coming out of the break, a Christina Cunningham steal and basket gave IUPUI the lead at 30-29, but ORU ran off a quick 6-0 run too grab 35-30 lead. IUPUI would cut it back to a one-point deficit on a Cann basket and a pair of James free throws. And that was as close as IUPUI would get for the duration of the game as ORU dialed long-distance to claim the win. Turnovers and missed shots down the stretch salted away any hopes of a late-game run for IUPUI.
"I'm going to take this feeling and use it as motivation for the next years I'm here because I never want this feeling again," said a dejected James. "It's not a good feeling at all."
The Jaguars will return four starters from today's game -- James, Cann, Whitted, and Brykeesha Tate - in the 2008-09 season. Both Cann and Whitted were honored as Summit League First Team performers, while James was named to the All-Newcomer Team.