Oral Roberts University senior guard Nathan Binam spent all of last season and this past summer teaching himself how to shoot a basketball again after losing most of the index finger on his left (shooting) hand in a car accident. The senior appears to have done well.
Binam has returned to the Golden Eagles' starting lineup, and he made six three-pointers, including the game-winner with six seconds left, to lift Oral Roberts to a 60-59 victory over in-town rival Tulsa this past Saturday. It was Tulsa's first loss of the season.
"I am just as confident as I was before the accident," said Binam, who made 6 of 10 three-point attempts on Saturday and finished with a career-high 22 points. "I think I am about the same."
Last September, Binam was driving to his family's home in a rural area just outside Tulsa when he lost control of his sport utility vehicle as he attempted to make a right turn. The truck flipped 1 1/2 times and slid about 30 feet on its roof before stopping.
At some point, Binam said, he grabbed the door to try to hold on and his hand got pinned between the car and the road. Doctors had to amputate his index finger just below the knuckle.
Binam resumed practicing just after Thanksgiving, but he had to relearn how to shoot, pass and dribble because doing so felt totally different without the index finger to guide the ball.
"There were times I would shoot and make it, but out of every 20, three or four I would air-ball it because it would slide off my hand because I thought [the finger] was there and it wasn't," Binam said. "The hard part was getting it to be second nature so I didn't have to think about it."
Binam is averaging 11.3 points this season and, even more remarkably, shooting 36.2 percent from three-point range and 82.6 percent from the free throw line for the Golden Eagles (5-4). But Saturday's winning shot may have completed his comeback.
"He will be remembered around here for a long, long time for that shot," said Oral Roberts' first-year coach, Scott Sutton, a son of Oklahoma State Coach Eddie Sutton.
Growing up, Michael Menser was like most kids from Indiana. He was an Indiana University basketball fan. He watched all the Hoosiers' games and thought Indiana would be a great place to play college basketball. However, he was not recruited by the Hooisers.
So Menser went to Indiana State. Last Saturday, the junior guard helped the Sycamores record their greatest victory since Larry Bird led them to the Final Four in 1979. Menser had nine points and four steals while Kelyn Block and Matt Renn scored 17 and 15 points, respectively, to lead Indiana State to a 63-60 victory over No. 21 Indiana in the final of the Indiana Classic.
It was Indiana State's first victory over Indiana since 1925 and Indiana's first loss in the two-day tournament, which was in its 26th year. While it was Indiana State's first win in Assembly Hall, it was not the first win there for Sycamores Coach Royce Waltman, a former assistant coach to Indiana's Bob Knight from 1982 to '87.
"I think I stayed in Assembly Hall as long as I could, until they came and got me and said the bus was going to leave," Menser said. "I was going to enjoy the moment as long as I could. Now we have to get back down to earth and get ready for our next game." That game is Sunday against Eastern Illinois. . . .
Princeton forward Mason Rocca, the Tigers' lone senior, played all 45 minutes and had a career-high 28 points and 13 rebounds in a 66-60 overtime victory at Rutgers on Sunday. Since Rocca returned to the starting lineup after a groin injury, Princeton (5-4) has won four consecutive games. The Tigers' next three games are against Alabama-Birmingham, Kansas and Xavier.
For the season, their assist leader is Nate Walton, a 6-foot-7 junior forward whose father is former NBA great Bill Walton; Nate Walton is averaging 4.9 assists per game. And in a very un-Princeton-like development, the Tigers are making just 59.6 percent of their free throws. . . .
Talk about turnarounds. Florida State guard Delvon Arrington had 14 turnovers in a 55-54 loss to No. 6 Auburn on Dec. 5. In the Seminoles' next game, a 79-56 loss to Seton Hall this past Saturday, Arrington had 14 points, a game-high 8 assists and just 3 turnovers.
Zags Own Pac-10
Though fourth-ranked Arizona is favored to win the Pacific-10 Conference title, perhaps the team best suited to give the Wildcats a run is Gonzaga, which won its sixth consecutive game against a Pac-10 opponent on Monday, defeating Washington, 76-66.
The only problem? Gonzaga (6-2) plays in the West Coast Conference.
After last season's remarkable run to the NCAA tournament West Region final, the Zags have played a brutal schedule under first-year coach Mark Few (their coach last season, Dan Monson, moved on to Minnesota). They lost consecutive games against top-ranked Cincinnati and No. 17 Temple, but recovered to defeat No. 18 UCLA, 59-43, last Saturday and then beat Washington. Gonzaga also beat Washington State, 73-63, earlier in the season, and was 3-0 against the Pac-10 last season, including their upset of second-seeded Stanford in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Next up on the Zags' Pac-10 slate is Tuesday's game against California in the Pete Newell Challenge in Oakland. Gonzaga also could play Oregon in the second round of the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu on Dec. 28. . . .
When South Carolina State beat Clemson, 71-68, on Saturday, it was just the second time that a team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference beat a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The other time that occurred was when Coppin State defeated Maryland, 70-63, on Dec. 12, 1989. ACC teams are 102-2 against MEAC opponents. . . .
Norm Stewart and Charlie Spoonhour, former coaches at Missouri and Saint Louis, respectively, did color commentary on the local television broadcast last Sunday when their former teams played each other for the first time since 1980. Saint Louis, under first-year coach Lorenzo Romar, defeated Missouri and its first-year coach, Quin Snyder, 75-72. . . . Not necessarily known for its basketball, the state of Oklahoma's top two teams are undefeated: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are 8-0. In addition, Tulsa is 7-1. Oklahoma junior Kelley Newton is 11 of 19 from three-point range this season and 0 for 4 on two-point attempts.
Though most teams have taken time off for semester exams, there are a few good nonconference matchups this week. No. 8 Kansas plays two of the Big Ten's top teams, hosting No. 12 Ohio State tonight and playing No. 20 Illinois in Chicago on Saturday. Also on Saturday, Kentucky, unranked for the first time since Dec. 4, 1990, hosts Louisville; No. 19 DePaul is at UCLA and No. 7 North Carolina plays Miami in Sunrise, Fla. On Tuesday, the Tar Heels play Indiana in the Jimmy V Classic in East Rutherford, N.J.