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Oral Roberts beats IUPUI to reach second straight NCAA tourney

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- With a flurry of 3-pointers from Rachel Watman, Oral Roberts will make a repeat appearance at the NCAA tournament for the first time.

Watman made all four of her 3-point attempts in the second half and scored 23 points as the Golden Eagles beat IUPUI 66-53 on Tuesday to win their second straight Summit League championship.

After being picked as the preseason favorites, Oral Roberts had to rally back from a sixth-place finish and the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament.

"We had all the expectations in the world when the season started to win the league and the tournament both," said coach Jerry Finkbeiner, who at times during the season was without leading scorer Jenny Hardin (foot) and key reserve Leanne Robison (shin splints). "I think the combination of things that happened within our team and to our team, we underachieved. A couple of times and a couple of games, we fell flat.

"In the end, it's very satisfying because we've literally done a 180-degree turn," Finkbeiner said.

Oral Roberts (19-13) hit five consecutive 3-pointers in the second half to break open a one-point game.

Watman started the hot shooting stretch with a 3-pointer from the left wing that put Oral Roberts up 38-34, and Janae Voelker hit two more 3s before Watman connected again from the right wing. Robison, who came in when Voelker picked up her fourth foul, then got into the action with a 3-pointer from the right wing that extended the Golden Eagles' edge to 53-42.

After a miss by Mariana Camargo stopped Oral Roberts' 3-point run, Watman bracketed two more 3-pointers around a pair of free throws from Demesha Heard. Her score from the top of the key put the lead at 61-46 with 5:52 to play.

"We hit those shots that we weren't hitting in the first half, and we really came together as a team today," said Watman, who matched her career-high with the four 3-pointers.

While pulling away, the Golden Eagles also clamped down on Julia Whitted, the 6-foot-5 center who paced the Jaguars (17-16) with 42 points, 30 rebounds and 11 blocks in their first two tournament games.

Whitted ended up with 15 points and 10 rebounds but was only 1-for-6 in the second half while playing against a crowd of defenders.

"It's really hard to see when there are three people around you with limited space and all you can see is the three people around you," Whitted said.

Jaguars coach Shann Hart suggested after the game that Oral Roberts was allowed to play more physical against Whitted and that she'd love to play for the conference title in her team's hometown.

"We've been doubled, we've been tripled every game all year. They didn't do anything any different," Hart said. "What was different was how the game was being called and not giving her room. You've got to give her space to square up. She wasn't getting that today and it wasn't being called."

Nicole James added 14 points for third-seeded IUPUI, which was making its first appearance in the conference championship game.

Voelker hit four 3-pointers and scored 12 points and Heard added 10 for Oral Roberts, which lost 88-67 at South Dakota State in its regular-season finale. The Jackrabbits won the regular-season title but weren't eligible for the conference tournament while transitioning to Division I status.

After starting out 2-for-11 from 3-point range, Oral Roberts hit seven of its next eight to take control. The Golden Eagles are NCAA-bound for the fifth time under Finkbeiner, including three of the past four years, but it's the first time they'll make the bracket in consecutive seasons.

"The first time, you're kind of taking it all in. You're kind of in awe of your surroundings and just how big a thing it really is," Voelker said. "The second time, we're all a year older and a year more experienced with big games. We're a lot more focused, a lot more ready to make a run at this."

Oral Roberts, which was a No. 15 seed in last year's NCAA tournament, will have another tough task at hand to get its first ever NCAA tournament win.

"From a coaching standpoint, I'd love to have a better record and get a better seed," Finkbeiner said. "I think this team can do some damage at the next level. We're looking at probably a tough seed to go in."