Cinderella is still dancing.
After stunning the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the 2021 men's NCAA tournament, the 15th-seeded Oral Roberts Golden Eagles overcame a double-digit deficit and shocked the seventh-seeded Florida Gators 81-78 in Sunday's second-round clash at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor led the way for the victors, who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 1973-74 season.
A solid showing from Tre Mann was not enough for the Gators, who have not advanced past the second round since 2017.
Notable Player Stats
- Kevin Obanor, F, OR: 28 PTS, 11 REB, 4 STL
- Max Abmas, G, OR: 26 PTS, 7 AST, 2 STL, 2 REB
- Tre Mann, G, FL: 19 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
- Noah Locke, G, FL: 17 PTS, 4 REB
- Colin Castleton, F, FL: 14 PTS, 10 REB, 3 BLK
- Tyree Appleby, G, FL: 14 PTS, 5 AST, 3 STL
Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor Continue to Put on a Show
Oral Roberts already proved it is not your typical No. 15 seed with a victory over a Big Ten powerhouse, but one look at its offense confirms as much.
With Abmas and Obanor launching, the Golden Eagles finished tied for 10th in the country during the regular season at 81.8 points per game. The pair also had plenty of momentum coming into Sunday's game after combining for 59 points in the win over the Buckeyes.
Abmas picked up right where he left off against the Gators and poured in 16 points in the first half alone by connecting on multiple triples and slashing through the lane whenever defenders pressed up on his outside shot.
He kept Oral Roberts within striking distance despite an impressive showing from Mann on the other end, which is all the Cinderella candidate could have asked for heading into the second half.
He needed some help, though, and Obanor found his scoring touch in the second half right as the Golden Eagles fell behind by double digits.
Obanor connected on a clutch four-point play to spark a run and took over in crunch time after his team fell behind six. He converted an and-1 to trim the lead to three, answered an and-1 on the other end with a three, put his team ahead with a jumper in the lane with less than three minutes remaining and drilled a clutch free throw with 17 seconds left to push the advantage to three.
The two-man game was enough against Ohio State, and it did the job against Florida as well. No other Oral Roberts player scored in double figures, but it didn't matter with Abmas and Obanor lighting up the scoreboard in another upset.
Florida Collapses with Turnovers
It seemed like Florida caught a break when the Golden Eagles shocked the world in the first round.
It's not very often a No. 7 seed gets to play a No. 15 seed, but the Gators still had to take advantage of the opportunity. Doing so figured to start on offense against an Oral Roberts defense that checked in at No. 249 in KenPom.com's rankings and didn't have the ball-stoppers to deal with Mann.
It was clear from the start the Golden Eagles had no answer for the All-SEC first-team selection, who did a little bit of everything in the first half to stake the Gators to the lead.
While Noah Locke and Anthony Duruji provided secondary scoring, it was Mann who battled for boards from the backcourt, facilitated when necessary and found openings in the defense to create shots for himself and others.
It was Mann who drilled three triples in the opening minutes of the second half as well, which allowed the Gators to finally create some separation with a double-digit lead after a back-and-forth first half.
Florida seemed primed to cruise to the finish line following that spurt, especially with Tyree Appleby dishing out assists, Locke hitting from deep and Colin Castleton establishing himself down low against an outsized frontcourt. However, it could never fully pull away due to 20 turnovers.
The Gators didn't score a single point in the final two minutes and fittingly had multiple turnovers in that span, and it cost them.
The Golden Eagles will face the third-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks in a Sweet 16 showdown in the South Region.