Greg Kampe has been around the Horizon League long enough to understand the ins and outs of it. He knows it’s hard to win on the road anywhere, but there’s one particular trip that stands out, Northern Kentucky and Wright State.
“It’s the hardest road trip in the league,” Kampe said ahead of these last two games.
Other than a sweep of the two-game swing last year, Oakland certainly has had their struggles in these two places. The last two seasons have come to an end at Northern Kentucky (2023) and Wright State (2022). Oakland had only one win at Wright State since 2016.
Much like the Wisconsin trip, it felt like if the Golden Grizzlies could find a way to get a win, it would seem like a successful week. Thursday saw a heartbreaking loss to the Norse in overtime, but a 74-60 win over Wright State got the wheels back on track.
Thursday’s contest saw an action filled affair that was the complete opposite of the slugfest that these two teams played earlier this season. Oakland held multiple leads, including one late in regulation, before falling in overtime 99-89.
Offensively, Oakland’s dynamic duo from beyond the arc was the story. Blake Lampman and Jack Gohlke combined for 13-38 from three. Lampman led the team with 24, while Gohlke was second with 21. Lampman has been taking the headlines in recent weeks, but the reemergence of Gohlke is arguably more important. Oakland was able to survive a few Lampman injuries early in the year because of Gohlke, and now with both of them firing it adds a fun dynamic to this team.
Trey Townsend finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds, and Chris Conway added 12 points and six rebounds. DQ Cole scored eight, but struggled from three, shooting 1-8 from deep.
Oakland struggled to stop NKU, but was in position to win the game with a late three-point lead, before a Northern Kentucky four-point possession flipped the script late. Northern Kentucky played like a team with their backs against the wall, and just found a way to win late.
Those defensive struggles came at a bad time, as Wright State awaited on Saturday. The Raiders lead the country in field goal percentage, and came into the game top 5 in the country in scoring.
In what was expected to be a shootout, Oakland locked down. Wright State had scored more than 70 points in every game this year, Oakland held them to 60.
Trey Townsend led the charge with 19 and seven boards. He was 9-14 from the floor including a late dagger three from the corner.
Although Townsend led the charge, there’s an argument that DQ Cole was the key to this win. He came out super aggressive, showing his athleticism on a couple impressive finishes. He was a monster on the glass, grabbing 11 rebounds, while also scoring 15 points.
Gohlke also added 15 points on five threes. In a game where Lampman struggled, his production was massive.
That win was massive for Oakland. A loss would have put them in a tie for second with Youngstown and Wright State, but the win keeps them one game behind league leader Green Bay, and creates a touch of space between them and the team behind. Oakland sits at 11-4 in the league, and 16-10 overall.
The road trip continues Wednesday, with a trip to Fort Wayne. Although the Dons come in at 7-7 in the league and in the 7th place, this is a tough matchup. Fort Wayne took it to the Golden Grizzlies back in early December, scoring 98 points and winning by move than 20+=.
Three point shooting for Fort Wayne will be the key. They shot 17-26 from beyond the arc in the first matchup, and Oakland cannot allow that to happen again. Jalen Jackson leads the Dons at over 16 points a game. He shoots 46% from three, while Quinton Morton-Robertson shoots 41% from three and is a double digit scorer. Rasheed Bello runs the show for Fort Wayne.
The supporting cast also hurt Oakland in the last battle, and Oakland will need to take that defensive effort from Wright State with them to Indiana.
Tip off is at 7pm, and will be broadcast on ESPN+.