Oakland hangs tough with Top 25 Illinois, Bowling Green next

Photo courtesy of Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Golden Grizzlies led two big ten teams on the road for more time than they were behind, unfortunately, time led doesn’t impact the final score.

It was another good effort from Oakland on Friday night, but they fell short to Top 25-ranked Illinois by a score of 64-53. 

There were many more positives that came out of Champaign, starting with Trey Townsend. He tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs, against as much size and athleticism as he is going to see all year. Considering his big night in Columbus to open the year, it appears as though it will be a normal occurrence to see Townsend stuff the stat sheet all year.

It wasn’t just Townsend standing up to match the Illinis’ physicality. Oakland hung in on the glass much better than in the opener, only losing the rebounding battle by four rebounds this time. Chris Conway, Isaiah Jones and the addition of Buru Naivalurua helped shore that up, combining for 13 rebounds.

Conway and Naivalurua particularly stood out, with Conway scoring six straight at one point before totaling nine points on the night, and Naivalurua snatching four rebounds in 11 minutes of action. His production based on athleticism alone was fun to watch, when he gets more acclimated to the system, it will be a huge boost to Oakland.

What Illinois did well was take away the three from Oakland, with Blake Lampman and Jack Gohlke only making two each. Coach Kampe has said the goal is to get Gohlke almost 15 threes a game, and he only managed to get six up, because of how tightly covered he was. Luckily for the Golden Grizzlies, the Horizon League does not grow Terrance Shannons on trees like they do in Champaign.

Illinois, just like Ohio State, had trouble figuring out the Golden Grizzlies defense, which has looked at least formidable so far this year. Illinois turned the ball over nine times, which means Oakland forced 11 turnovers a game against those two teams. Neither of the teams did not shoot well from distance either, a welcome sight for Golden Grizzly fans.

The attention now turns to Bowling Green, who comes to Rochester as a familiar opponent for Oakland. Oakland has lost three straight to the Falcons, all in the last four years, and all of them went down to the wire. Last year’s affair was also at the O’rena with the hot-shooting Falcons using 12 threes to squeak out an 87-82 win. 

Bowling Green had a change of leadership over the offseason, and hired Todd Simon to replace Michael Huger. Simon comes from Southern Utah and brings a fast pace of play with him. Bowling Green sits at 2-0 with wins over Arkansas State and Chicago State, both at home. The Falcons don’t have much of the same from last year’s team that took down Oakland, and are led by two guys in Marcus Hill and Detroit native Daijon Humphrey who were not on the squad from last year. Humphrey interestingly spent last season at Garden City Community College, a place that a number of Golden Grizzlies are from. Rashun Agee, a returner from last year, powers the Falcons inside, and will command attention on the glass.

The Oakland Bowling Green has always meant a little extra to Coach Greg Kampe, who graduated from BG after playing basketball and football for the Falcons. As he embarks on his 40th season at the helm of Oakland, there will be nice tributes and celebration throughout the night in the O’rena honoring the new longest Division 1 tenured coach in the country.

Tip-off inside the O’rena is slated for 7pm Tuesday, with a tailgate by the Elliot Tower leading up to the game. It should be a fun night, and a fun game as the blacktop welcomes back regular season basketball for the first time this season.

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