Junior Christian Key scored a career-high 21 points as Oral Roberts University overcame a rocky first half to dominate Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 58-41, on Thursday night at American Bank Center.
Key was 8-for-13 from the field and 5-for-7 from three-point range. The career-high performance is the third straight for the Tulsa native after she scored 15 points in a win over Northwestern State on January 10 and 20 in a victory over Stephen F. Austin on January 12.
The victory, combined with Sam Houston State's 64-48 win over Central Arkansas, moves ORU into a four-way tie for first place in the Southland Conference standings. Those three teams, along with Lamar, all sit at 4-1 through five conference games.
Sarah Shelton added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Golden Eagles (7-8, 4-1 Southland Conference), while Jaci Bigham added nine points and seven assists.
The Islanders (1-15, 0-5 SLC) were led by Imani Dunn, who entered the game with just three total points on the season but scored 13 on Thursday night.
ORU shot 38.6% from the floor, including a 51.9% clip in the second half, while A&M-Corpus Christi shot just 29.5% and turned the ball over 24 times.
ORU got off to a very slow start but managed to take advantage of Islander turnovers, building a 15-10 lead on a Bigham jumper with 10:30 left in the first half.
But the home team came back. An Ashley Darley layup gave Corpus Christi a 21-20 lead at the 3:20 mark, their first of the game, and they carried a 23-22 advantage into the halftime break.
The Islanders committed 18 turnovers in the first half but held ORU to 26.7% shooting.
ORU broke out of their malaise to start the second half on the back of Key, who carried the Golden Eagle offense with her outside shooting. The junior hit three of her first four field goal attempts to start the half, including a corner three with 14:02 left to give ORU a 35-27 lead.
The lead continued to swell for the Golden Eagles, as the offense clicked into gear for Misti Cussen's team. A layup from Shelton off of a beautiful Taylor Cooper lob stretched the advantage to 44-31 with 9:04 to play.
The largest ORU lead of the game came with 2:33 left, when a Bernadett Balla basket stretched the advantage to 56-38.
Key scored 16 of her 21 points after halftime, while nine of Shelton's 11 points came after the intermission.
Bigham played all 40 minutes of the win. In addition to her nine points and seven assists, she secured seven rebounds and three steals.
ORU will have an opportunity to solidify their grasp on first place when they face Sam Houston State on Saturday afternoon. Tipoff in Huntsville, Texas is scheduled for 1:30 pm CT.