Oakland wins at Xavier, Metro Series looms

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Photo courtesy of Oakland Athletics

Throughout the night, the FS1 broadcast continued to mention Greg Kampe’s 12 wins over power conference opponents. So when the final buzzer sounded and the handshake line concluded, Kampe walked over to the broadcast table and said one word.

“Thirteen.”

Oakland secured a 78-76 victory over Xavier to move to 4-3 on the season. It was a complete effort throughout, as Oakland led for 35+ minutes. The Golden Grizzlies were led by Trey Townsend. Townsend logged 28 points, six boards and a career high seven assists. When combining the shot-making, facilitating and defensive effort, it may have been the best game in his college career to this point. He was the best player on the court all night,

One reason why Townsend was able to operate with the space he did was the performance put in by Chris Conway. He poured in 15 points on 6-8 from the floor, to go along with 6 rebounds. It seemed like he had 8 points right when the ball was tipped and in the second half he showed off some post work that had to excite Golden Grizzlies fans. His two career high point totals against Division 1 opponents have come in the last two games, his breakout has finally arrived.

Those two were the stars, but the rest of the crew brought some game as well. Jack Gohlke made four more threes, good for 12 points, and Rocket Watts added seven points. They both provided big buckets in the closing stretch to help boost Oakland across the finish line. Isaiah Jones also played another fantastic game, he continues to do every little thing that Oakland asks him to provide.

Defensively, it was an up and down night for Oakland, although Xavier did benefit from shooting 30 free throws. Oakland seemed to just do enough on the glass as well, only losing that battle 37-29.

If it seemed like the game looked familiar, it’s probably because it did. The first 30-35 minutes of the game seemed eerily similar to previous games at Ohio State, Illinois and even Drake. Where this differed though was the closing stretch.

When Xavier made their run to go up 3 with just under four minutes to play, it looked like it was heading towards another close loss. But Oakland responded with one more counterpunch of their own, the exact thing that was missing in the other contests.

Learning how to close out games in high pressure environments is why Oakland plays such a grueling schedule every year, and the payoff is getting the experience against the best so nothing can surprise them when it matters most late in the year. According to Kenpom, Oakland has played the 21st hardest non conference schedule in the country to this point, with games against Dayton, Toledo and Michigan State still on the docket. As a team, Oakland has shot up to 132 on Kenpom, with the offense being ranked 111th, both marks that are second in the Horizon League to Wright State who sits at 130.

As nice and exciting as this win is for Oakland, the celebration can’t be a long one. About 40 hours from the time the bus rolled back onto campus, league play will begin, against arch rival Detroit no less. 

The message from Greg Kampe postgame was all about getting ready for Wednesday night at Calihan Hall, even before Xavier he was reminding the team the real thing starts against Detroit. Even with the Titans struggles to start the year, they know they are 0-0 in games that matter as well. 

Detroit sits at 0-6 this season, but a one point loss to Ole Miss and a tough loss to Eastern Michigan show they can hang in there on any given night, especially with a player like Jayden Stone. Stone is averaging almost 22 points per game and is a force for Detroit. It all starts with him if you are the Golden Grizzlies. 

The quick turnaround from the big win will be a challenge, and Oakland will look to avenge last season’s Metro Series loss on Wednesday night at 7pm at Calihan Hall. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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