Oakland returns home after Wisconsin split

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Photo Courtesy of Oakland Athletics/Jose Juarez

Entering the weekend in Wisconsin, no team in the Horizon League had won a league road game in the Cheesehead state. Teams were a combined 0-7 in those games. Oakland began their trip by adding to that total, and ended it by breaking the streak.

The Golden Grizzlies earned a 1-1 split on the road, losing to Green Bay 69-59 on Thursday, before winning a 91-87 double overtime contest in Milwaukee on Saturday. The results moved Oakland to 8-3 in the league, tied for second a half game behind current league leader Green Bay.

The game against the Phoenix was a grinding slugfest for most of the night. Oakland held a 1 point lead at the half, with neither team reaching 30 points.

With the score tied at 50 with 6 minutes to play, it was anyone’s game. But the early season tough finishes showed back up for Oakland, and Green Bay pulled away for a double digit win.

The offense that seemed to have its way with Green Bay in the first matchup, struggled in this one. The Phoenix held Trey Townsend down for most of the night, and he ended with only 9 points.

Blake Lampman led Oakland with 15 points on 5 threes, and Chris Conway poured in 14, shooting 7-10 from the floor.

Outside of Lampman, the Golden Grizzlies shot 2-14 from the three.

The scoring depth wasn’t quite there on this night, but the defense kept them in it.  One positive was Oakland held Noah Reynolds in check yet again, holding him to 8 points. Foster Wonders and Rich Byhre combined for 9-10 from three and were the difference.

After the loss, the Milwaukee game became that much more important. The clump of the Horizon League makes the fight for those coveted top four seeds an absolute war, and Milwaukee and Oakland are right in the thick of that fight.

Oakland found themselves down double digits in the late first half, but a late run pulled them in front by 1. A back and forth second half spilled into two overtimes, before Oakland stole the win.

Albeit against a worse defense team, the Oakland offense was back to clicking. There were many key contributors but the most welcome sight was the reemergence of Jack Gohlke.

Gohlke exploded for a season high 27 points, shooting 8-18 from three. After a great start to the season, Gohlke has been struggling of late. He was on a streak of 6 straight games with less than 3 made threes, after hitting that mark 11 times out of the first 15 games. He won’t average 27 a game the rest of the season, but rekindling his confidence is a huge boost for the Golden Grizzlies as they head towards the stretch run.

The other major performance was the one of Buru Naivalurua. With Chris Conway in foul trouble most of the game, Naivalurua was called upon. And he delivered.

He went for 8 points, 17 rebounds, and 5 blocks. The monster that people knew was in there showed up in full force for the first time this year, and his impact on the game was a different maker. It will be interesting to see how he builds off of this game.

The stars were almost overshadowed, but put up big production as well. Trey Townsend missed many makeable looks that he usually makes, and those misses added up to a 4-13 shooting night. However, he was a force, drawing fouls and converting 13-14 from the free throw line, which contributed to him logging 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Blake Lampman added 5 threes and 17 points, as well as 4 assists. It seems as though he has all the confidence in the world right now, and that’s a huge bonus for Oakland.

Dq Cole and Isaiah Jones were the other key factors. Dq scored 10 points and added five steals, while Jones stuffed the stat sheet with 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in only 20 minutes. It’s not just the fact that these two are putting up these numbers as well, they are capable of making big plays in big moments, which is a testament to the depth of this Oakland bunch.

Oakland will now return home for two games this week, with an opportunity to put themselves into prime position for a big time seed.

It starts Thursday against Robert Morris. The Colonials come in at 4-6 in the league and in 9th place. Although they have had their struggles this year, they come in having won three of four, and four of six, so Oakland will need to come to play.

They are led by Michigan native Markeese Hastings, who is averaging 15.3 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. At 6-7, he presents plenty of issues for opponents on the offensive glass, so he’s one to keep an eye on.

Returner Josh Corbin and LSU transfer Justice Williams both average about 13 a game and will need attention. Corbin in particular is RMU’s best three point shooter, and will look for his shots against the Oakland zone.

Stephan Walker is another double digit scorer, and he and Hastings have led the Colonials to leading the league in offensive rebounds in conference plays.

Saturday brings a rematch with Cleveland State. The Vikings are coming off a two-point home win over Robert Morris, and are currently 6-5 in league play.

The game in Cleveland saw CSU get up 20+ points in the first half before the Golden Grizzlies came storming back, but the Vikings pulled out the win. The Vikings efforts were focused heavily on stopping Trey Townsend, and Blake Lampman going 0-7 from three played right into that. Those will be the matchups to watch offensively.

Tristan Eneruna is a player of the year contender, who struggled against Oakland in the first game. Him and Tae Williams lead CSU in scoring, and are two really good athletes that are good on both sides of the ball.

Jayson Woodrich and Drew Lowder are three point threats that have hurt Oakland in the past. Woodrich shoots 41% from three, while Lowder is at 36%.

It will be a fun weekend in the O’rena. Thursday’s game will start at 7pm, and Saturday is a 1pm tip.

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