As the Oakland men look to begin Horizon League play this week and the Oakland Women go for their second week in league, it seems like a good time to recap the week that was for both teams.
The Oakland women spent the last week playing the two in state Big 10 teams. They started on the road at the Crisler Center against the University of Michigan. OU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and then proceeded to let the game slip throughout the remainder of the 1st half. They were able to keep themselves around ending the first half down 12. In the second half, they battled back and kept Michigan from every pulling away. Oakland go the lead down to 1 late in the 4th quarter on a Briana Breedy jumper, but that was close as they could get it in what ended up a 58-69 loss. In the game, the Grizzlies were lead by 3 players in double digit scoring including freshman Olivia Sims who had 10, Breedy with 11 and Kahlaijah Dean leading all scorers with 15. In the game OU was out rebounded 24-40, a big factor in the outcome.
In their second game of the week, the day after Thanksgiving seemed like the best time to have Michigan State over for an afternoon of basketball. While the Spartan men would never have the… guts… to come into the O’rena, the MSU women did. They left with an 84-71 victory of the host Golden Grizzlies. Oakland again kept it pretty close the whole game, including tying it up halfway through the 3rd quarter but the Spartans gradually extended their lead to the end of the game. Oakland had the same 3 players in double figure scoring. They lost the rebound battle but only by 3 in the game. The biggest difference in the game came at the free throw line. While Oakland was 5-6 from the stripe, MSU found their way to the line 17 times in the game, making 12 of them.
Things were a bit better on the men’s side for the week. After their loss to Alabama to close out the previous week, they travelled to Estero, Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase. They knew they would be playing 3 games in 3 days, a tournament format head coach Greg Kampe felt was important in preparing his team for the season. The first and only known game of the tournament was also one that Kampe had circled as an important measuring stick as they would square off with perennial NCAA tournament team out of the American East, Vermont. Despite leading most of the game and all of the second half, OU found themselves trailing by one with less than 2 minutes left in the game. However, Jalen Moore came up big and hit a game winning 3 with 10 seconds left and the OU defense held on to get the victory. Oakland was lead in scoring by Jamal Cain who had 22 with 16 rebounds, while Moore chipped in 21 points including the game winner. Oakland only got 5 points from their bench in the game however, which only consisted of Blake Lampman and Osei Price for this game.
With the win, Oakland moved into the winner’s bracket and drew Rice out of Conference USA, who needed 3 overtimes the day before to slip past Evansville. The game saw Oakland leading pretty handedly the whole game, but having to hang on down the stretch and get out with the 3 point victory 76-73. While both Cain and Moore reach double figures and scoring again, the Grizzlies were lead by Trey Townsend (A side note from Matt: Trey is from Oxford, Michigan, and his sister was in the building when the shooting happened this week but is safe. Sending good thoughts and love to the entire Townsend family in which is surely a difficult time for them) who had 25 points. This was not by accident that he had this output either. The Oakland staff planned for him to have the mismatch and a defender that while bigger, would not be able to keep up with him when he had the ball and it worked out well. The win put them into the championship game against Delaware.
If Oakland was tired playing their 3rd game in 3 days, you wouldn’t have known it against the Blue Hens. They never trailed in the game and coasted their way to the title. They made a living at the free throw line in the game going 23-27 compared to Delaware’s 4-5. Oakland does not usually see a 22 free throw margin go in their favor, but they made the most of it in this game making 85% from the line. Jamal Cain would take tournament MVP honors as he finished the tournament pouring in 28 points and coming up one rebound short of the double-double. Yet again, Moore contributed with double digit scoring, as did Townsend. The biggest surprise for OU fans was a 4th player who reached double figures in scoring, which was Zion Young off his knee injury who got it going from 3 point land as well as the free throw line. Kampe had not planned to play Young but he begged his was onto the floor after only having practiced twice with the team all season. He made the most of his time not only scoring the ball and providing a needed bench spark, but showing Kampe he was ready by knowing sets he had never even practiced. At this stage in his career it takes a lot to impress the long time coach, so barring any setbacks OU fans can expect to see Zion getting regular minutes off the bench and providing a spark.
A close loss against a Big 12 opponent, a win over another Big 12 opponent, a handful of good Mid-Major wins and a good loss to an SEC team on their home floor. What does it equal? Well, at this point, it equals the number one spot in the entire country for Oakland in the RPI rankings.
What does that mean in the long run? Nothing.
It will go down this week no matter the outcome as they get into conference play at UIC and IUPUI and RPI is an antiquated metric that is not fully used by the NCAA the way it used to be. It is however, part of the NET rankings that the NCAA uses when looking at NCAA Tournament seedings and At-Large bids. Is OU looking at an At-Large? Not likely. But if they continue to play like this all season and dominate the league including winning the tournament, it could help provide a solid seed and a chance to make a little noise in March. For now, it’s the beginning of December and if they don’t handle their business in conference, this strong start will be nothing but a history lesson for Oakland fans to remember fondly.