When Oakland released their non conference schedule, it looked like wins may be hard to come by early. In the first six games of the year, the Golden Grizzlies have been underdogs in five. There would be no shame in having a losing record at this point, with the attention being centered on conference play next week.
But the Golden Grizzlies had other ideas.
Oakland sits at 3-3 after getting two wins in the Cayman Islands Classic, and they secured those wins in a variety of ways.
The week started with a loss to Drake, however. A highly competitive contest throughout, the game was similar to the Ohio State and Illinois games Oakland’s seasons started with. A one score game with under five minutes to play, Drake went on a late run to prove to be too much in the end. Like those other two games, there were more positives than negatives to take away from this game.
The Bulldogs came into the game with top 25 votes, and boasted the nation’s leading scorer in Tucker Devries. Devries, the son of Drake head coach Darian Devries, was held to 1-10 shooting and 5 points. If you are a star player who has your dad as your coach, you might want to avoid the Golden Grizzlies.
This was also the beginning of the long awaited breakout performances of a few Golden Grizzlies. Rocket Watts and Chris Conway were the teams leading scorers, with Watts totaling 23, and Conway with 12. It was a career high for Rocket, and he did it in every way. It was the first time, maybe since he left Michigan State, that we saw him play with so much confidence.
After the loss to Drake, Oakland faced off with WCC member Loyola Marymount. LMU had wins over Gonzaga and Saint Marys last season, and have lofty expectations in their conference coming into the new campaign.
The game was back and forth to start, before Oakland stretched the lead before halftime, and then used a run to start the second half to extend the lead to 58-38 with 15 minutes to play. LMU clawed back into the game before Oakland pulled out a 74-69 victory. This was not the only time Oakland has struggled early this year against some full-court pressure, and it will be something to watch as the season moves along as Oakland figures out its point guard situation.
However the struggles against pressure did not overshadow the job well done. Trey Townsend and Jack Gohlke led the scoring attack, each with 18. Those two have proven that they will be a force on any given night, and when they play well Oakland will be able to play with anyone left on the schedule.
But what should excite Golden Grizzlies fans is that in their third game against Marshall, Townsend did almost no scoring, and Oakland still found a way.
Oakland won the 5th place game over the Thundering Herd 78-71. Rocket Watts led the way again with 20 points. He averaged 18.7 points a game in the Cayman Islands, and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team. Chris Conway was a force once again, with 18 points and 5 rebounds. He continues to trend upward, and is now averaging just over 10 points a game on the young season.
Gohlke was once again excellent with 17 points, including his first two point attempt and bucket of the year. But the real unexpected star for Oakland was Isaiah Jones. Jones logged his first career double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. His defense and rebounding have been exactly what Oakland has needed, and if he can continue to provide a few games of big scoring totals, it could be an unexpected game changer for this team.
All of this was without Blake Lampman as well, who continues to be sidelined with a hip injury. Although Oakland has played extremely well without him, he would be a huge addition to shore up some areas of the roster.
Oakland will now enjoy the holiday, before heading to Xavier on Monday. Tip will be at 6:30pm, and will be nationally broadcast on FS1.