The message from Coach Greg Kampe to his team all season has been to clear the next hurdle. On Saturday, Oakland cleared a hurdle they needed to have in order to stay with the top of the league.
Oakland moved to 6-2 in the league and 11-8 overall with an 88-66 win on the road at IUPUI. The Golden Grizzlies jumped out early, and held a double digit lead throughout most of the game.
The story to keep an eye on for Oakland is the emergence of DQ Cole. He led Oakland with 19 points while also adding 8 rebounds. After his breakout against Northern Kentucky on Wednesday, he continued his upward trend against the Jaguars. Another scorer with Coles size and rebounding ability adds another dimension to Oakland that they have lacked all year.
The other two stars of the day were Isaiah Jones and Rocket Watts. Jones logged 14 points and 9 rebounds in 25 minutes, while playing outstanding defense. Watts added 16 points of his own off the bench. These two are a great example of why the depth Oakland has can be such a positive. Two guys that have done the dirty work for Oakland this year, can also provide quite the scoring punch.
Blake Lampman and Trey Townsend also scored double figures, but weren’t needed to carry the load like they have been. The sixth Golden Grizzly in double figures was Buru Naivalurua, who started for Chris Conway who was inactive Saturday. He had a nice highlight lob dunk that showed his athletic ability.
It was a workmanlike effort for Oakland, who now turn their attention to a big time showdown.
Coming into the Orena is Youngstown State, who sit a half game behind Oakland for first place. Oakland beat Youngstown State on the road 88-81 earlier this year.
The Penguins are coming off of a huge win over Wright State last Friday in a nationally televised clash. In the game before, they beat Fort Wayne who was in first place at the time.
This starts a key portion of the Oakland schedule. After this game is a week off before heading to Wisconsin, for what looks like a daunting trip this year. If Oakland can head to that trip at 7-2 and on top of the standings, it will be as good of a position as you could’ve asked for at the beginning of the year.
Ziggy Reid and Brandon Rush still lead Youngstown State. Oakland was able to slow down Rush last game, who killed Oakland last year. It will be important to not let him break out of a little slump in order to pull out a win.
Tip off will be on Wednesday night at 7pm. It will be broadcast on ESPN+.