Tuesday, March 5 By: Ryan Taegel
ROCHESTER, Mich. – This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Oakland Golden Grizzlies men’s basketball program. Head coach Greg Kampe admitted that himself.
But as he took to center court to thank the fans following his team’s fourth straight win, a 74-63 victory over IUPUI at the O’rena on Saturday evening, they were locked into a third-place finish in the Horizon League.
Like most games this season, nothing came easy for Oakland University. IUPUI jumped out of the gates to a nine-point advantage early. The Jaguars inside-outside combination of Camron Justice and Ahmed Ismail caused havoc on the Golden Grizzlies defensively. The two combined for 20 of the team’s 33 first half points.
IUPUI was dominant on the glass through the first 20 minutes. OU was out rebounded 19-12 by the Jaguars which included eight offensive rebounds to the Golden Grizzlies two. Even with the disparity, Oakalnd only allowed four second chance points in the half.
With not a lot going right for the Grizzlies, Brad Brechting was solid. Brechting led Oakland with 11 first half points. Along with his physical play, Oakland was able to tie the game. That was until IUPUI’s Jaylen Minnett hit a mid-range jumper with eight seconds left in the half. Giving the Jaguars a 33-31 lead heading into the break.
After a poor shot selection by Oakland’s Tray Maddox Jr. late in the first, he was met by coach Kampe who angrily reminded him “this isn’t Novi high school anymore.” The message must’ve hit home with the freshman.
Maddox opened the second half with a quick three giving Oakland their first lead since the 17:37 mark of the first half. Within the next minute, he tallied another two buckets on a personal 7-0 scoring run. Oakland wouldn’t surrender the lead for the rest of the game as they outscored IUPUI 43-30 in the second half.
Brechting continued his first half performance as he led all Oakland scorers with 15 points. Jaevin Cumberland had 12 points while Maddox Jr. ended with 10.
The Golden Grizzlies shot 52% from the field along with 43% behind the arc.
While it was a great shooting performance, Oakland’s ability to share the ball played a key role in the final score. The Golden Grizzlies had 26 assists on 28 made field goals which was a season high. None prettier than a wrap around pass from Brechting to opposite big man Xavier Hill-Mais under the rim with 8:39 remaining. Coach Kampe had his jaw dropped in disbelief for a full possession on the sideline. It was the fourth assist for Brechting in the game, a career high.
Oakland finished the regular season with a .500 record overall at 16-16. But their 12-7 conference record is third best in the Horizon League behind only Wright State and Northern Kentucky.
“Who would’ve thought walking out of that exhibition game against Hillsdale we’d finish in third place,” Kampe said as he addressed the crowd postgame. “It’s been a great season. It’s not over yet but it’s been a great season.”
The Golden Grizzlies will welcome in Youngstown State to the O’rena on Wednesday night at 7pm for a Horizon League tournament quarter final matchup.