ORU in the NCAA Tournament: Role players provide crucial contributions in win against Florida

Florida’s Tyree Appleby (left) passes around Oral Roberts’ DeShang Weaver (middle) and Carlos Jurgens during the first half of the Golden Eagles’ win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.

Kelly Hines Tulsa World

INDIANAPOLIS — Despite having the nation’s top-scoring duo, Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills looked to one of his role players to deliver one of the biggest shots in program history.

With two minutes left in Saturday’s second-round win against Florida, reserve DeShang Weaver drained a corner 3-pointer to propel the 15th-seeded Golden Eagles to an 81-78 victory and a Sweet Sixteen appearance.

“We told him, ‘Hey, you’re going to be in this position in this left corner, knock it down,’” Mills said. “He just nodded his head, and that kid, when he’s dialed in, is really special.”

Weaver missed five shots earlier in the game including an ill-advised 3-pointer in the first half. He brushed that off and embraced his coach’s confidence for him to make a significant basket.

“D.J. played a big factor,” teammate Kevin Obanor said. “That was a big shot that we needed, and he came (through) when we needed it to be clutch. I’m very grateful for him and very happy that we all get to experience this opportunity to play in the Sweet Sixteen.”

Although Obanor and Max Abmas combined for 54 points, ORU received important contributions from other players. Francis Lacis secured a huge offensive rebound in the final 30 seconds that led to a free throw from Obanor.

“I tell our players this often: You will not have another teammate like Francis Lacis the rest of your career, if you go on to play until you’re 40,” Mills said. “It is just so rare to watch somebody celebrate other people’s success.”

Lacis had three steals, as did Kareem Thompson, who provided a scoring boost in the first half and finished with nine points. Carlos Jurgens also scored nine, most notably scrambling for a loose ball and making a fast-break layup with four minutes to go.

“Our coaches always say we have to stay ready so we don’t have to get ready,” Obanor said. “I can just say for all our teammates, they play a big part to our success. It’s not just me and Max. It’s the little things that our teammates do.”