Oakland falls in OT to NC State in second round of NCAA Tournament

Photo courtesy of Oakland Athletics

Don’t be sad because it’s over, but smile because it happened.

The Oakland Golden Grizzlies brought plenty of smiles to the faces of not only their fans, but fans of basketball over the last few days. A magical run that began with an outright regular season league championship clinched on senior day against rival Detroit Mercy, continued through a Horizon League tournament championship, and concluded in Pittsburgh in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, with an overtime loss to the 11th seeded NC State Wolfpack.

For a team that was less than 48 hours removed from potentially the biggest win in school history against 3rd seeded Kentucky, there were obviously questions about whether or not Oakland could handle the national attention thrown their way. Many teams would not be able to bring a big-time performance after pulling off an upset like Oakland did. But there were no problems Saturday night.

The game was highly contested all night, with NC State holding a slim lead for the majority of the night, before Oakland took their first lead with just under three minutes to go on a Trey Townsend and one. 

During the NCAA Tournament run, Townsend’s teammate Jack Gohlke became the darling of the tournament, and deservedly so. But Townsend introduced himself to America with a monster 30 point 13 rebound performnace. If this was the last we saw of Townsend in an Oakland uniform, he went out with a game like Golden Grizzly fans have seen so many times, by being the best player on the floor.

Gohlke continued his torrid stretch, making six threes en route to 22 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds from his guard position. Gohlke averaged 27 points a game off the bench in the tournament, while setting the NCAA Tournament record for most threes in his first two career tournament games, with 16. The 5th-year senior certainly made the most of his short time as a Golden Grizzly.

Chris Conway, along with Townsend, was part of an effort to try and defend NC State’s big size inside. Oaklands defense rattled the Pack for chunks of the night, but it was a war that certainly saw both sides win their fair share of battles throughout the night. Conway scored 9 points as well.

Blake Lampman saw his college career come to an end while playing his school record 143rd career game. He hit a few big threes early to keep Oakland attached, and just couldn’t hit the big one to send the Golden Grizzlies over the top. He ended with seven points.

There were many points during the game where Oakland could’ve gone away. NC State is playing at an extremely high level, and continued that level on Saturday, but Oakland proved that they were not a one hit wonder, and had a chance to win the game with the ball and a tie game at the end of regulation. Oakland ran a play that has worked countless times this season, and a pass to Townsend was just knocked out of bounds with a second to play. Oakland could’ve had a chance to win with an out of bounds play, but the call of Oakland ball was controversially overturned. Oakland would get outscored by six in the Overtime period.

As time goes on, this season will always be looked back upon as a special one for Oakland. Making the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament while winning multiple championships is the most likely the most successful season in program history. While the ending maybe won’t leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, there will always be the question of what if, and the thought of knowing the Sweet 16 was potentially seconds away will linger for quite a while.

However, it is no secret that Oakland has had teams with the talent to make a run like this in the past. There is potential that the 2024 edition of the Golden Grizzlies not only took the program further than it ever has, but broke the mold for future teams to be able to have this opportunity more often. Only time will tell.

Nonetheless, this season was a historic one for Oakland, and it is one that deserves to be remembered for years to come.

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