Golden Grizzlies Finish Seesaw Season

OU Finished 17-14.

Oakland ended the year 17-14 overall, 11-6 in league action.

By Scott MacDonald

Oakland Athletic Media Relations

Final Stats * Final Stats in PDF Format

It could have been a year to remember for the Oakland University men’s basketball team. The Golden Grizzlies had their first win over a nationally-ranked opponent in the Div. I era, defeating No. 23 Oregon, 68-62, at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Dec. 22, and had a pair of three-game winning streaks to start the second half of league action.

But the Golden Grizzlies would follow up those streaks with a loss or two and could never get the ship headed continuously in the right direction. After taking down the Ducks in Auburn Hills, the Grizzlies fell to a 2-9 Toledo squad, 71-69, albeit on a buzzer beater. That was the 2007-08 season for OU. Pick up some big wins along the way, but follow those up with some disappointing losses.

Much like a roller coaster ride, hit some peaks and valleys, but when you are finished, your stomach is a little queasy.

The Golden Grizzlies ended the regular season on a high note, winning seven of their last 10 games, including a big 84-69 victory over second-place IUPUI in the Athletics Center O’Rena on Feb. 21, preventing the Jaguars from getting at least a share of the regular season crown with Oral Roberts. That finish allowed Oakland to be the No. 3 seed at The Summit League Championship.

The first round pitted the Grizzlies against No. 6 seed Western Illinois. With two victories over the Leathernecks already, Oakland was concerned with WIU having its full team back.

“It’s always tough to defeat a team three times in a season,” said head coach Greg Kampe. “They were without their leader David Jackson when we beat them here.”

Coach Kampe’s concerns were put to rest pretty early as the Golden Grizzlies went to the free throw line a tournament and school record 55 times, making 35 of those attempts. OU was led by junior Erik Kangas, who finished with a game-high 26 points and six 3-pointers, matching a season high.

“That is a staple of our team,” said Kampe about OU getting to the free throw line so much. “We have guys that can get to the basket and create problems.”

Next up for Oakland was IUPUI, which both teams won on its respective floors during the regular season by almost the exact same scores, 82-69 in Indianapolis, and 84-69 in Rochester. With the chance to get to the championship game for the second straight year, and third in the last four years, the Grizzlies fell 80-65.

Oakland kept getting within three or four points, but could never get even with the Jaguars as Player of the Year George Hill played one of his best games of the year, scoring 32 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Junior Derick Nelson led the Grizzlies, tallying his fifth double-double of the season, tallying 21 points and 12 boards.

“They were the better team that night,” said Kampe. “George Hill showed why he was the Player of the Year and we did not have anyone make shots when we needed one.”

So the season ended the way it began, with a heartbreaking loss. The Golden Grizzlies did have two players make the all-league teams, Nelson earning first team honors, and sophomore Johnathon Jones garnering second team honors.

Nelson led Oakland with 17.3 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. The Lansing, Mich., native became the seventh player in the Div. I era to surpass the 1,000-point plateau, ending his junior year with a total of 1,106.

Jones, a native of Okemos, Mich., dished out a league best 186 assists, finishing second all-time in the DI era. He ranked second on the squad by averaging 14.9 points per game, and tallied a career-high 13 assists versus UMKC on Dec. 6 in the O’Rena.

Oakland also set a new program record with 114 points (DI) against the Kangaroos, and set a new all-time record with 14 blocks versus Duquesne on Nov. 20. OU and Duquesne tied an NCAA record, combining for 29 blocks in that game. The Grizzlies also set a new school record with 120 blocks on the season.

Senior Patrick McCloskey became the all-time leader for Oakland with 125 games played, while redshirt freshman Keith Benson’s 40 blocks were one shy of tying the all-time single-season record at OU.

The Golden Grizzlies’ 11-6 mark during league play was the sixth time in nine seasons Oakland has been at least .500 or better. The Grizzlies finished the year 168 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), ahead of Michigan (169), LSU (173), Central Michigan (184), Toledo (186), Iowa (188), Bowling Green (205), Northwestern (221), Eastern Michigan (238), Oregon State (271) and Detroit-Mercy (287).

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