There are no moral victories in sports, but as a mid-major team finding its way through a grind of a non conference schedule, there are reasons for optimism after a tough loss.
The Golden Grizzlies went into a Big Ten arena and were the better team for a good part of the night, before coming up short 79-73. There were some question marks about the makeup of this team after a loss to D2 Walsh to open the preseason. But in just a short time, Oakland seems to be figuring it out.
Having a talent like Trey Townsend is a good start. The 4th year man finished the game with 17 points and a game-high nine rebounds, while also leading the team in assists with four. He actually struggled at times during the game, but still found a way to look like a dominant force in the Horizon League.
A welcome sight for Oakland fans was the possibility of the great shooting teams of the past making a return for the upcoming season. The Grizz were led in scoring by Jack Gohlke with 18 points, amassing those totals by going 6-18 from the three. Seeing someone attempt that number of threes is a sign of the confidence that the coaching staff and players have in the ability of Gohlke.
But it wasn’t just him. Blake Lampman chipped in 14 points on four threes, and DQ Cole made two of his four attempts from beyond the arc, good for eight points. As a team, Oakland made 14 threes, a number they hit only once all of last season.
Where the game was lost was on the boards, a battle that Golden Grizzlies lost because of some frontcourt trouble. Chris Conway and Aundre Polk both did some good things, but both fouled out extremely quickly, with Polk only playing four minutes. Ohio State won the rebounding war 40-24 on the night.
Oakland was shorthanded at that spot, with Cooper Craggs out a while due to a broken ankle and Buru Naivalurua ineligible as of now. The Grizz are hopeful to hear some news on Naivalurua’s status soon.
The biggest question coming into the season for Oakland was how do they replace Jalen Moore at the point guard spot. One game into the season, that remains a question mark.
Rocket Watts got the nod to start at the position, and while three assists, zero turnovers and good defense is a good start, the Golden Grizzlies would love to get more than the 0-5 shooting night he logged. Tone Hunter showed some flashes against Ohio State. In only 11 minutes, he scored 8 points and took two charges, a good start to his career.
There were even moments when Kampe put the point guard duties on Cole or Lampman, just to get the offense started. Cole is someone that could assume the position full time, and other than a big sloppy turnover late in the game, he filled out the spot well.
As a team defensively, Oakland’s zone caused Ohio State problems, forcing 13 Buckeye turnovers. The Golden Grizzlies also deployed a man look as a change of pace, something they have not done very much in recent years.
Looking ahead, it doesn’t get much easier. A trip to top 25-ranked Illinois awaits Oakland on Friday, and the Illini will not take the Golden Grizzlies lightly after this showing. It is another game against a high quality opponent in which you can live with a competitive loss, as going against this tough competition will only strengthen this team down the road.
Tip will be at 8pm ET, and don’t cancel those BTN+ subscriptions from Monday yet, as Friday’s game will be on the same network.