Inbounding the ball underneath its own basket with three seconds left and the score tied on Monday night, Arkansas-Little Rock attempted to set up the winning play with full confidence that the worst possible outcome would be overtime.
Somehow, someway, the Trojans lost in regulation instead.
Oral Roberts junior Damen Bell-Holter intercepted an overthrown three-quarters court baseball pass from Tramar Sutherland of Arkansas-Little Rock, took two dribbles and heaved up a 60-footer of his own. Improbably, the 6-foot-9 big man's shot banked in, giving Oral Roberts a 58-55 victory and stunning even radio play-by-play announcer Geoff Haxton, who had already proclaimed on air, "Let's go to overtime," as soon as Bell-Holter broke up the inbounds play.
"We assumed the best we could do was play good defense and force overtime, but they threw the ball too far and I got hold of it," Bell-Holter said Tuesday morning. "My shot was a bullet. It had no arc on it. I knew it was straight on but I threw it as hard as I could. I didn't think it was going to come close."
The shot by Bell-Holter had his teammates dancing on the court in delight afterward, and with good reason since it gave Oral Roberts a critical win. The Golden Eagles (7-3) lost at Oklahoma on Thursday and have road games against Gonzaga and Xavier still to play this week, so it was significant for them to find a way to win at Arkansas-Little Rock and avoid a potential losing streak.
"It was good for us to get the momentum back after the Oklahoma game," Bell-Holter said. "We'd won seven of eight and we knew we had to win that game. UALR out-toughed us in the first half and we came back and battled and battled. We have some huge games coming up and we're really excited. We feel like we have an opportunity to compete with these teams."
Bell-Holter said he hardly slept Monday night after what he called the biggest shot of his basketball career. Friends flooded his phone with calls or texts after seeing his shot on "SportsCenter" and he even exchanged tweets with ESPN's Scott Van Pelt.
It was fitting that Oral Roberts won on an unlikely buzzer beater since the Golden Eagles sustained a tough loss last month to Texas-San Antonio on a running 3-pointer as time expired.
"My teammate Dominique [Morrison] was yelling after the game that the basketball gods owed us that one," Bell-Holter said. "I think he's probably right."
(Thanks, Mike Houck)
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