On a night when Oakland was honoring coach Greg Kampe for his 40th year as head man of the Golden Grizzlies, the team responded like their coach deserved a celebration.
Oakland scored their first victory of the young season with an 81-62 defeat of Bowling Green. Trey Townsend led the way with 20 points, despite a slow first half where he tallied four points. It seems like it will be a near-impossible task for teams to keep him down for a full 40 minutes all year.
Although Townsend led the way, the rest of the scoring load included a welcome sight for Oakland fans, balance.
10 Golden Grizzlies scored en route to the dominant win. Jack Gohlke lead the rest of the pack with 14 points, but it was contributions from a few others that was the most exciting part of the night.
DQ Cole showed a glimpse of what he can be in an Oakland uniform shooting 4-4 from three, good for 12 points. Rocket Watts finally put his name in the scoring column this year, with 10 points. He was aggressive getting into the paint, and was also physical on the glass. With Blake Lampman sidelined a few weeks due to a hip injury, those two will need to carry some of that load on both ends of the floor in his absence.
A week of playing a Big Ten schedule can be tough both mentally and physically, but the biggest benefit of a schedule like that may have shown itself with the performances of Chris Conway and Isaiah Jones.
Conway finished with nine points, and Jones finished with six, but the impressive thing was how they got them. Every bucket by both of them was a contested finish with contact, and they each looked strong on the glass. Playing that tougher competition seems to have upped their physicality level from the preseason contests.
Play on the court aside, there was a special vibe inside of the O’rena, with congratulations coming from all directions being sent in the direction of Kampe. Throughout the night, video messages played on the big screen from former coaches, former players, and friends in the profession of Kampes. A small pregame ceremony was also held, that included a gift from Athletic Director Steve Waterfield and a rousing standing ovation from the Oakland faithful. It is important to note this was not a retirement party, and Kampe is looking forward to the future. Former Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim joked in his congratulatory video that Kampe has seven more years to catch his 47 years spent at Syracuse, and challenged him to beat it.
Shifting attention forward, Oakland now has a packed week ahead in the Cayman Islands. The team will arrive late in the day Friday before taking the court against Drake Sunday morning. at 11am Eastern Time. The Drake Bulldogs are loaded, and appear in the others receiving votes section of the AP Top 25 poll.
Drake is led by Tucker Devries, who is the son of head coach Darian Devries. Devries in two games this year is averaging 28.5 points per game, as well as 6.5 rebounds and 5 assists. Atin Wright has added 20 points per contest, while Darnell Brodie, Kevin Overton and Conor Enright round out as good of a starting five as there is in mid major basketball.
It doesn’t get much easier after that as Oakland will face either Loyola Marymount or Stephen F. Austin in the next game. Both teams are ranked in the top 100 in Kenpom, and will provide a stiff test for Oakland. Utah State, Marshall, Akron and Florida International round out the loaded field.
It will be a week of tough battles for Oakland, but with the way they have performed over the first couple of games, they have shown reasons to think they will be up to competing all week. Kampe’s postgame message to the team best sets the stage for the three games ahead, “Let’s just see”.