“We don’t lose To Detroit”

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The quote came from former Oakland standout Xavier Hill-Mais on Twitter and summed up what many OU fans, players and coaches have felt since Oakland joined the Horizon League. “We don’t lose to Detroit.” Coach Greg Kampe has talked about this mantra and instilling in his players the importance of the Oakland/Detroit-Mercy rivalry, often texting them a countdown to the game. This weekend, the Golden Grizzlies showed that the series just means that much more to them.

The old adage about “when these two teams get together, you can throw out the record books” definitely rang true this past weekend. While Oakland came in 0-9 including 2 losses in conference, UDM had one win to its credit in non-conference. Both teams had played tough in their opening weekend of conference play and had games scheduled against other teams for the weekend. Then COVID and the Horizon League scheduling got involved. With only 3 days notice, both teams were now shifting gears to prepare for one another. Who better to get your first conference win of the season against then your rival down the road?

Both OU and UDM were not shy about the fact they didn’t want to play this series this past weekend. For the teams and fan bases, it means something and to throw it in out of the blue felt like it cheapened things. However, the fans and even the schools don’t control these things. Not only were the games going to happen, but they were going to happen at Calihan Hall. The series was scheduled to be played at the Orena this season, and is actually still set to be played there on their original date as the teams may meet 4 times this season. If they play another 2 games, Oakland will be coming in with a 2-0 lead on the season and a 14-2 lead since joining the league.

The first game saw the Titans jump out to an early 3-0 lead. That was significant as it was a 3 pointer from struggling guard Antoine Davis as well as the first time that the Titans had held a lead in the series in 117 minutes and 20 seconds of game action. UDM led the entire first half and while they seemed to be in control, they never could pull away in the half. Oakland was beating them down low despite the Titans clear height advantage including transfer Noah Waterman finally seeing his first game action. Strong play from Yusuf Jihad off the bench late in the half seemed to give Oakland some much needed offense and energy.

In the second half, Oakland continued to hang around. A jumper from Jalen Moore knotted the game up for the first time since the opening tip. From there neither team was able to pull away from the other. A big moment for OU in the half came with Zion Young finally hitting some shots on the season. He finished the game with just 9 but it included a game tying 3 with 33 seconds left in the half. At the end of the half, they were tied up at 66 and headed to overtime.

In the bonus session, Oakland seemed to have the upper hand but could not shake Detroit for good. With 34 seconds left, Matt Johnson tied the game for UDM. This set up the dramatics to end the game. Oakland held for a last shot and Zion Young took it, but missed. However, Micah Parrish did the work down low cleaning up the rebound and scoring with 2 seconds left. Antoine Davis got a good look from 3 on the other end up but shot it off the front rim giving Oakland the first game on the weekend victory.

Oakland was led in the first game by Daniel Oladapo who put up another double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, Parrish who had 18 points as well to go with 8 boards, and Trey Townsend who had 10 points and 7 rebounds to round out the Golden Grizzly double digit scorers. Jalen Moore had an off night even though he had 12 assists and 8 points He did it on 1-9 shooting and an uncharacteristic 60% from the free throw line. Rashad Williams went just 3-14 from the field and 2-12 from behind the arc. For OU to win a rivalry game even with usually big pieces not contributing their usual numbers was big for the team. You also cannot downplay Parrish hitting the winning bucket. He is a local kid who knows and understands the rivalry. In many ways, that can make the difference. It just means more to the Oakland kids it seems.

Less than 24 hours later, they had to do it again.

Game Two of the weekend saw a bit of a reversal as far as who did the scoring, but it produced the same outcome in the end for Oakland. They were led by the guards on this day where Moore bounced back with 23 points and 7 assists while Williams had 18 points. Williams biggest 3 of the night was his last though as he hit the game winning shot to end the game with 1 second left.

For Oakland the weekend was far from perfect, but anytime you can leave your rival’s gym with not only your first win of the season but your second it’s a good trip. The emergence of Zion Young will be something to watch going forward. He and Kevin Kangu saw extended minutes they haven’t seen yet this year, likely due to a thigh injury for Blake Lampman that kept him out this weekend. If both can play the way they did this past weekend going forward, they may have made a serious change to the minute distribution and rotation for Kampe. Jihad also played strong minutes and showed his offensive skillset. Kampe has said he needs to get him more minutes than he had been and he made good of it this weekend. Jihad responded by playing well and earning more minutes going forward.

All said and done, the weekend went as well as it could for OU. They contemplated not even playing this weekend and taking the forfeit per Kampe. He simply did not want to play the rivalry this weekend without any real notice. UDM coach Mike Davis came out after the game with his anger with the league for scheduling it. His concern was about player safety and COVID protocols. At the end of the day, no matter who really wanted to be there or not, Oakland left Calihan with 2 victories while the 100 or so cutouts of fans around the gym will be left to wait until January 15 to hopefully see their first home victory.

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