Let’s clear one thing up before we go forward with this. When we say “Oakland Basketball” we are talking men’s and women’s hoops. We here at HoriZone Roundtable are doing our best to give the women’s side equal attention to the men’s side. They deserve it. As this will likely become a weekly article, we wanted to establish that up front.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to the week in Oakland basketball.
The week started out strong with the men’s team hosting Toledo on Wednesday. Greg Kampe had this as one of 3 games that he felt really mattered in the non conference season as it would really be a way to see where his team stood against another solid mid-major. Fresh off their strong showing in the loss to West Virginia to open the season and the upset of Oklahoma State (Cowboys, not Sooners. That way my bad) the Grizzlies were feeling confident.
That confidence was aided by almost 4,000 people packed in the O’rena for the first regular season game in way too long. Oakland went into the half down one, but really got things going in the second half outscoring Toledo 49-27 and winning decidedly 80-59. Jamal Cain lead the way with a career high (at the time) 29 points and 17 rebounds. He was clearly the best player on the floor for either team, both athletically and skillset. Oakland also got 18 points from Blake Lampman on 5-9 from 3 and 17 points with 11 assists for Jalen Moore. Moore has struggled a bit early in the season as other teams have made him a focus of their defense, but was able to look more like Jalen Moore of last year this game.
The following night, The OU Women opened up their Horizon League conference slate hosting Youngstown State. The Penguins jumped out to a 23-13 lead after the first quarter and never really allowed the game to get much closer. YSU was hot from the field all night shooting 56% overall including 12-23 from 3 while also outrebounding Oakland by 15 boards. The Golden Grizzlies were lead by Kahlaijah Dean who scored 18 points and Kayla Luchenbach who chipped in 10. Oakland managed to turnover YSU 21 times to their 9, but never found a way to convert those to points.
Friday night it was the men’s turn to play basketball again. This time, they took the show on the road to No. 14 ranked Alabama. Coming into the game, Oakland had the 3rd ranked RPI in the country, however, their early season success was not to be duplicated on this night. Alabama lead from start to finish including a lead as large as 29. Oakland struggled to get their zone defense set up, and that was really the story of the game as they have really used their defense as their calling card early in the season especially at times where their offense has struggled.
The offense did struggle again on this night, as they shot 4-23 from three and 30% from the field. Cain set another career high in points, pushing it to 31, while Moore struggled again against a Power 5 team. Through 4 games, the point guard is averaging nearly 6 assists per game, but also 6.5 turnovers while shooting 26% from the field and 9% from 3. The reality is, Jalen Moore is a much better player than his stats show, but teams have been prepared for him this season and are making others beat them.
One positive from the game for OU was the first appearance of the season for Zion Young. Kampe had mentioned his ideal situation was to not play Young on this trip, but he got him 5 minutes of work in the blowout loss. Hopefully they can ease him back into the lineup getting into conference play where he can provide some offensive spark for the team.
To round out the week in OU basketball, the women hosted Robert Morris for their second game of the HL slate. It was a back and forth game, but in the end, OU pulled away and finished with a 65-60 win. RMU was picked 9th in the preseason poll so it seemed like a game that OU should have dominated, yet, they struggled all the way to the end with Colonials. OU was again lead by Kahlaijah Dean who had 22 points while Briana Breedy chipped in 13 as the only other Grizzly to reach double figures.
Jeff Tungate and the women’s coaching staff seem to still be struggling to find a combination that works consistently on the floor. This game saw Breanna Perry start in place of Luchenbach and Alona Blackwell, who started all but 1 game last year and averaged 10.5 points a game, come off the bench and seem to be in the background much more than she was in the past. The minute distribution still seems unsure and may be playing a part in the seemingly rocky start to the OU season. They are a veteran team and it would figure this would be a year that the team is expected to succeed or talk of change could be in the near future.
Things do not get any easier for the women this week. After 2 games in conference, they will step back to non conference play with the two in state Big 10 schools. They travel to Ann Arbor to take on 13th ranked Michigan on Monday night before hosting MSU Friday afternoon in the Orena.
The men have a very important week as they head to Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase. The only known game is their Monday afternoon tilt with University of Vermont, a team Kampe says is consistently one of the best mid-majors in the country. That is another measuring stick game for them to see where they really stand in the mid-major realm. They will follow that game up with 2 more games in the next two days as part of the MTE. While the Alabama loss certainly wasn’t the result they wanted, it is this next week that will really determine where the team is at this season. A few wins in the MTE would likely set them up for success heading towards the Horizon League conference schedule.