Tearing Into New Territory
The Golden Grizzlies jumped into the new millennium with both feet flat on the ground. Since Oakland made the transition from Division II this was the first year it could receive any postseason honors and awards. This also marked the first year that OU could compete for the Mid-Continent Conference regular-season title.
Exceeding everyones expectations, the Grizzlies turned heads when they clinched the 2000 Mid-Con title. What started off to be a year of struggles ended up being a year of unforgettable memories.
In the Mid-Con preseason coaches poll, Oakland was picked to finish in sixth place and projected in the media poll to finish fifth. Junior Dan Champagne was picked as a first team selection, while sophomore Brad Buddenborg was chosen as a second team candidate.
In other preseason polls, the Golden Grizzlies were picked to finish as high as second in one, third in two, sixth in three, and ninth in one.
Champagne was a preseason Mid-Con pick and Dick Vitales College Basketball selected him as the preseason player of the year. Buddenborg was named to the preseason second team and the Sporting News selected him as the best shooter in the Mid-Con. Head coach Greg Kampe rounded out the preseason picks by being chosen as the preseason coach of the year.
The first game of the season took Oakland to intrastate rival Michigan. The Grizzlies fell behind early and never recovered. Oakland didnt break into double figures until the 4:48 mark in the first half and the Wolverines led by as many as 30 points in the first 20 minutes of action. Oakland put together a run in the final minutes of the first half and took a 42-19 deficit into the lockerroom at the half. The Grizzlies responded in the second half by outscoring UM 43-40. OU cut the lead to nine points with 15:49 left on the clock. Michigan came back strong and increased its lead to 25 at the 5:47 mark. At this point the game was out of reach for Oakland. Champagne led the way for the Golden Grizzlies with 26 points, four rebounds, four steals, and one assist. Buddenborg also reached double figures with 11 points, and his six rebounds lead the Grizzlies. Record: 0-1.
The Grizzlies then made their way back home to face Illinois State in their home opener November 21. OU fell to the Redbirds 72-67. Oakland scored first, but couldnt hold on as ISU took a 34-25 lead into the half. OU and ISU were tied 13-13 at the 11:49 mark, but that was the last time in the first 20 minutes. OU came out in the second half and went on a 13-6 run to close the gap to an ISU two- point lead, leaving the score 40-38. ISU pulled ahead once again with an 11- point lead with close to 10 minutes remaining. Oakland responded going on a 16-5 run to tie the game 61-61. With many more trades offensively, OU tied the game for the final time at 65-65 . ISU recorded the final run of the game and outscored OU 7-2 for the victory. Leading the way for Oakland was Buddenborg who scored 27 points, going 9-for-19 from the field, including five three- pointers. He was 4-for-6 at the line, grabbed four rebounds, had five assists, one blocked shot and one steal. Senior Myke Thom and Champagne both scored in double figures with 10 points apiece and both brought down nine boards. Record: 0-2
Next, Oakland traveled to Hawaii to compete in the Hawaii Pacific Tournament November 26-28. The first game had Oakland facing a tough Louisiana State team. The Grizzlies came to battle with the Tigers, playing a tight first half and found themselves down 38-30. Oakland came out in the second half of play and cut the Tigers lead to four leaving the score 47-43. Even though OU outscored LSU 50-49 in the final 20 minutes, it wasnt enough to claim victory as the Grizzlies lost to the eventual tournament champion 80-87. Buddenborg led all scorers with 21 points and Champagne followed with 18. Sophomore Mychal Covington contributed 16 and Thom added11 to round out the Grizzlies scoring attack. Record: 0-3.
The much-anticipated wait for a victory proved to be short for Oakland who faced its next opponent Hawaii Pacific the next day. Oakland attacked first with a field goal and never looked back. The Grizzlies took a 46-28 lead into the lockerroom at the half. The second half of play was a turn of tables as HPU outscored the Grizzlies 46-36. The run wasnt enough for the Sea Warriors as the Grizzlies held them off to take the victory 82-74. Champagne and Buddenborg each scored 20 points, while Covington was the third OU player in double figures with 16 points. Record: 1-3
The win against HPU put Oakland into the consolation championship game against Toledo. The Golden Grizzlies jumped out to an early lead against Toledo, but the Rockets went on a run of their own and had the 36-27 edge at halftime. The two teams fought neck in neck for the final 20 minutes, but Toledo took the victory 74-65. Leading the way once again for Oakland was Champagne and Buddenborg who each tossed in 17 points apiece. Junior Sebastien Bellin added 10 points, while Buddenborg grabbed eight rebounds on the night. Record: 1-4.
Champagne was named to the HPU Thanksgiving Classic All-Tournament Team after scoring 55 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. He shot .667 from the field going 20-for-30 and was 13-for-14 from the line.
After the Thanksgiving trip, Oakland came back to the Orena where OU faced its first Mid-Continent opponent, Southern Utah, December 4. The Grizzlies didnt explode out of the blocks but had a comfortable lead going into the second half, 47-37. The second half was all Oakland as Thom led the way with 21 points, including six three pointers. Champagne had his first double-double of the season scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Rozycki added 15 points to complete the double digit scoring. Record: 2-4, 1-0 Mid-Con.
Champagne reached the monumental 1,000- point plateau in the Southern Utah victory making him only the 18th OU player to reach this status. The 1000th point came against the T- Birds when he completed a three-point play with a free throw.
Just when things were looking up for Oakland, the Golden Grizzlies found out that they lost one of their key players Dan Champagne to a hand injury. OUs leading scorer (18 points per game) was lost for the remainder of the season due to the dislocation of his fourth and fifth metacarpals on his right hand.
Next for the Grizzlies was an "Attack on the MAC". Bowling Green made the trip from Ohio to face the Golden Grizzlies first December 7. Without its leading scorer, Oakland faced an undefeated BGSU team. The Grizzlies held tight in the first half, trailing 27-21 at the half. Oakland came back and cut the lead to one, but that wasnt enough to fend off BGSU as OU lost 69-57. Bellin led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Buddenborg added 15 points, two assists and one rebound. Junior Steve Houston recorded a career-high eight assists. Record: 2-5, 1-0 Mid-Con.
The Grizzlies next conquest came when Toledo made its way up to face Oakland for the second time December 9. The Grizzlies found themselves down at halftime 40-35. OU grabbed a two-point lead at the 13:25 mark in the second half, but that was the end for Oaklands attack, as Toledo pulled out the win 90-76. Leading the way for OU was sophomore Jason Rozycki with 20 points and five rebounds. Houston added a season- high 14 points, grabbed five boards, tallied four assists and had two steals. Bellin and Buddenborg each added 11 points apiece and Bellin grabbed a team-high eight rebounds against the Rockets. Record: 2-6, 1-0 Mid-Con.
In the last matchup of the "Attack on the Mac", Oakland faced Western Michigan December 11. The Grizzlies dropped a heartbreaker to the Broncos in overtime 89-87. With two seconds left in regulation, Houston sank two free throws to tie the game at 79 and send it into overtime. In the overtime there was six different lead changes. Unfortunately for OU the Broncos Thadus Williams sank a three- pointer outside the left three-point arc to take the deciding 89-87 lead. Oakland had five players score in double figures. Rozycki led the offensive attack with 28 points, going 5-for-10 from the field with three three pointers, sank 15-for-16 free throws and grabbed six rebounds, had two assists and one steal. Buddenborg and Houston each scored 14, while Bellin and Covington each tallied 11 points apiece. Record: 2-7, 1-0 Mid-Con
Next up for the Grizzlies was eventual national champion Michigan State December 18. The Spartans proved to be too much for the shorthanded Golden Grizzlies as OU fell to MSU 86-51 in East Lansing. Oakland trailed 43-28 at the half and was outscored 43-23 in the second half. OU played without leading scorers Champagne and Buddenborg, but senior Thom stepped up his game and led the offense scoring 20 points. Thom was 5-for-10 from the field, including four three pointers, and was 6-for-7 from the line. As a team, Oakland excelled at the line hitting 17-of-20 of its free throws (.850). Record: 2-8, 1-0 Mid-Con.
Oakland then hit the road playing Cleveland State December 20. OU suffered another disappointing loss 81-67. OU fell behind early in the first half, but bounced back taking a 34-32 lead going into the lockerroom. In the second half CSU went on a couple of scoring runs and Oaklands attack was not enough. Rozycki led all scorers with 19 points, going 4-for-12 from the field, including three three-pointers, and was 8-for-9 at the charity stripe. He grabbed one rebound, two assists and two steals. Covington followed him with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot, and one steal. Thom wrapped up the double figure scoring with 10 points, six rebounds, four assists, two block shots and two steals. Junior Jon Champagne had a career game against CSU as he scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Record: 2-9, 1-0 Mid-Con.
The Grizzlies then faced another Big 10 powerhouse, Ohio State and fell 76-50 December 27.The game started slowly, but the
Buckeyes went on a 20-2 run late in the first half to take a 34-17 lead at the half. In the second half, OU almost doubled its point total with 33 in the final 20 minutes. But it wasnt enough to contain the Buckeyes as they scored 42 points in the second half. Covington led all scorers with 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and had two assists. Buddenborg after missing two games due an ankle injury scored 14 points. Record: 2-10, 1-0 Mid-Con.
Next the Grizzlies traveled to Akron December 30 to face the Zips. OU dropped its 11th game of the year, 97-72, in a disappointing non -conference game. OU trailed by 13 at the half and cut the lead to 10 during the final 20 minutes. Akron proceeded to outscore Oakland 52-40 in the second half. Oakland was led by the sophomore attack of Buddenborg and Rozycki, with 23 points apiece. Bellin rounded out the double figure scoring for the Grizzlies with 12 points. Record: 2-11, 1-0 Mid-Con.
OU traveled to its fourth Big 10 opponent of the year January 2nd in Northwestern. The Golden Grizzlies opened the new millennium with an upset of the wildcats, 60-41, in Evanston. OU led by as many as 23 during the first half of play and went in the lockerroom with a 35-13 lead. OU was outscored 28-25 in the second half, but it wasnt enough for NU as the Grizzlies hung on to record the victory. Buddenborg scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Rozycki added 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Grizzlies. Covington grabbed a career- high 11 rebounds while scoring six points and recording three assists. Record: 3-11, 1-0 Mid-Con.
The Golden Grizzlies werent able to keep their winning ways alive when they faced Loyola January 3rd. OU lost to the Ramblers 69-60. Oakland shot only 14 percent from the field in the first half (4-for-29), but responded in a big way by hitting 16-for-30 from the field in the second half (.533). Leading the way for Oakland was Rozycki, who scored 15 points and had three assists. Buddenborg followed with 14 points, while Covington scored 12 points, and Bellin added 10. Record: 3-12, 1-0 Mid-Con.
The Golden Grizzlies returned home to face Mid-Con foe Youngstown State January 8. Oakland defeated the Penguins 85-66. The Grizzlies scored the first basket and never looked back, as they held a 46-31 lead at the half. OU recorded its top offensive game, hitting 49 percent from the field (24-for-49). OU was 11-for-24 (.458) from the three point arc and hit 72 percent from the line (26-36). Buddenborg recorded 24 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. Bellin scored a career- high 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds en route the victory. Thom and Rozycki rounded out the attack with 17 and 16 points respectively. Record: 4-12, 2-0 Mid-Con.
OU traveled to Valparaiso January 13 and fell to preseason favorite Valparaiso, 58-56. Despite outscoring the Crusaders in the final 20 minutes of play, the Grizzlies came up short after trailing 35-21 at the half. The battle went back and forth for the final eight and a half minutes of the second half but the Grizzlies just couldnt secure the lead. Rozycki led the way for OU scoring 17 points while Bellin added 16 points and grabbed a team high seven rebounds. Record: 4-13, 2-1 Mid-Con.
OU fell short in its next Mid-Continent Conference game against Chicago State 73-67 January 15. OU shot only 30 percent from the field in the first half and trailed CSU 39-28 at the break. Oakland made a strong comeback in the second half and even went ahead 62-61 with 3:11 left in the game. OU lost that lead and never recovered. Bellin led the way with his first double-double of the season, 15 points and 11 rebounds. Buddenborg scored 17 points, had three assists and two steals. Record: 4-14, 2-2 Mid-Con.
Oral Roberts was the next challenge the Golden Grizzlies encountered. OU defeated ORU 93-78 January 20. Rozycki sparked the victory, scoring 36 points. The loss for ORU was its first ever home Mid-Continent Conference loss. Rozycki, hit 11-13 shots, including 7-8 from the three-point range, and 7-8 from the free throw line. Bellin scored 16 points and Houston and Buddenborg scored 14 each for the Golden Grizzlies, who shot 58.3 percent, a season high. Bellin also grabbed eight rebounds to lead OU. Record: 5-14, 3-2 Mid-Con.
On January 22 the Grizzlies faced UMKC in Kansas City. Oakland took a 30-26 lead into the intermission and led by as many as 13 points in the second half of play. With 11 seconds left in the game the Golden Grizzlies had fallen behind 62-61and with 3.7 seconds left Rozycki made a three-pointer to give OU the lead and the win. Rozycki and Buddenborg combined for 50 of the 60 points scored by the Grizzlies. Rozycki recorded his second straight 30+ game (33 points) to lead Oakland. Buddenborg recorded his first double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Record: 6-14, 4-2 Mid-Con.
Rozycki earned the Mid-Continent Conference "Player of the Week" January 24th. He tallied two 30-point games in two conference victories.
The Grizzlies then traveled to IUPUI on January 27th to take on the Jaguars. Oakland trailed by six with 49 seconds remaining and hit three three-pointers before the final possession. Buddenborg took a lob pass on the back side of the basket from Thom, working free on a back-side screen, elevated to take the pass in mid-air and bank it in as time expired. Leading the way for OU was Bellin with his second double-double of the season. He scored 17 points and grabbed a career-high 12 boards, while Buddenborg recorded his second double-double as well scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 boards. Houston rounded out the double figure scoring with 13 points. Record: 7-14, 5-2 Mid-Con.
The Grizzlies then fell to the Mid-Continent Conference leaders Youngstown State, 68-65, January 29 in Youngstown, Ohio. Oakland took a 31-28 lead into intermission. Youngstown took the lead with 4:27 to go in the second half and never let it go. OU was in it right until the very end but wasnt able to muster a last second victory for the third game in a row. Buddenborg led the way with 18 points, and eight rebounds. Covington followed with 13 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds, while Thom had 10 points, and six rebounds. Record: 7-15, 5-3 Mid-Con.
The next matchup brought Valparaiso to OU for another nail biting performance February 3rd. This game went down to the wire and Oakland lost 65-62. The first half saw six lead changes between the two teams and Oakland took the lead 29-24 after the first 20 minutes. To start the second half Valparaiso went on a 19-4 run and led OU 43-33. The Grizzlies then went on an 8-0 run of their own to make some noise with four minutes remaining in the game. The two teams battled back and forth until Buddenborg put OU within one point of the Crusaders. Valpo answered back with a basket of its own and the Grizzlies couldnt rebound as the clock ran out. Leading the way for Oakland was Buddenborg with 14 points and six rebounds. Rozycki also chipped in 14 points and had three rebounds. Covington scored 11 points and Houston closed out the double figure scoring with 10 points. Record: 7-16, 5-4 Mid-Con.
Oakland then tried to bounce back from the tough loss, as they headed to Southern Utah February 10th. Oakland came up short and lost its third straight Mid-Continent Conference game, 68-58. Oakland shot a season low 22 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and trailed 26-15 at the half. The 11- point deficit proved to be too much to overcome for the Grizzlies as they fell 68-58 to SUU. Rozycki led Oakland in scoring with 20 points, while Covington scored nine points. Record: 7-17, 5-5 Mid-Con.
On February 12th the Golden Grizzlies traveled to Western Illinois to face the Leathernecks in another Mid- Continent Conference matchup. This time OU wasnt going to settle for its fifth straight loss. OU took their frustrations out on WIU and claimed a victory 77-60.
Oakland scored the first field goal and never relinquished that lead as OU led the Leathernecks 40-29 after the first 20 minutes of play. Oakland made 15 of 19 free throws shooting 77 percent from the line and 44 percent from the field to hold off WIU. Buddenborg led the way for Oakland with 29 points, two rebounds and two assists. Rozycki closed out the double figure scoring for the Grizzlies racking up 15 points and grabbing three rebounds. Record: 8-17, 6-5 Mid-Con.
OU continued its winning ways as the Golden Grizzlies took action using their home court advantage against IUPUI. Oakland proved to be too much for the Jaguars as OU shut down IUPUI 83-79 in Mid-Con action. Oakland took an early lead after two three pointers by Thom. The first half then saw 12 lead changes as IUPUI took the lead going into halftime 40-36. Oakland took the lead in the second half with 5:04 remaining and never looked back. Buddenborg led all scorers with 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Rozycki added 18 points and three rebounds, while Thom scored 12 points, had two rebounds and five assists. Houston rounded off the double figure scorers with 11 points, one rebound and four assists. Record: 9-17, 7-5 Mid-Con
Oakland next ventured to Chicago State February 19 to continue its winning streak as OU defeated the Cougars 99-95. Leading the way for Oakland was Buddenborg who tallied 27 points, grabbed three boards and dished out four assists. Rozycki followed with 18 points while Houston had 14 points and Bellin scored 10 points. Record: 10-17, 8-5 Mid-Con.
Oaklands second " Player of the Week" went to Buddenborg for the week of February 21st. The sophomore led the way for the Grizzlies as they defeated IUPUI and Chicago State.
OU returned home for its final three games of the 1999-2000 season. First up was Western Illinois February 21st. The second half was nothing but a constant battle as the lead teetered back and forth. OU held on to the win 78-75. Rozycki lit up the three-point arch with nine threes against the Leathernecks. His nine three pointers tied a school record that was set by Kevin Kovach in 1997. Rozycki was also 7-10 at the line giving him 34 total points to lead Oakland past WIU. OUs leading scorers were Rozycki with 34 points. Jon Champagne with 10 points and Houston and Thom with nine points apiece. Record: 11-17, 9-5 Mid-Con.
The Golden Grizzlies took advantage of the Kangaroos 16 turnovers in the first half in their next match as they defeated UMKC with the score 111-108 in double overtime in a first place showdown February 24th. Buddenborg paced the Grizzlies with 21 points in the first half to give OU a 49-38 lead going into the lockerroom. The Kangaroos used a 9-2 run to cut the lead in half and later on went on to take the lead 62-61. The two teams exchanged six lead changes over the next four minutes and Oakland led 81-80 with 3:32
remaining. The Kangaroos scored on a lay-up by Will Palmer with 1:39 left on the clock leading the Grizzlies 84-82. The OU defense contained UMKC and scored on a Buddenborg lay-up with: 32 remaining to force overtime. In overtime, Rozycki and Reynolds hit back-to-back three pointers to give OU a 94-90 lead after a UMKC basket. Matt Suther hit a big three pointer for UMKC as the Kangaroos cut the lead to 94-93 with 50 seconds remaining. Buddenborg went to the line with :20 seconds remaining and hit both of his free throws to give OU a 96-93 lead. UMKC struck quickly with a basket and put Buddenborg back on the line with six seconds to go. He hit both of his free throws and the Kangaroos Marc Stricker hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 98 and send the game into double overtime. The Grizzlies outscored the Kangaroos 7-2 in the second overtime to give OU a 105-100 lead with 2:19 remaining. The game was knotted at 106 at the 1:28 mark as Buddenborg hit a three-pointer to give OU a 109-106 lead. UMKCs Stricker hit a jumper and then fouled Buddenborg. Buddenborg hit both of his free throws and the Golden Grizzlies led 111-108 with 15 seconds remaining. UMKC missed two chances at tying the game and OU came out with the victory. Buddenborg scored a career-high 43 points shattering his old career high of 29 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out seven assists to lead Oakland. Rozycki followed with 19 points and Thom closed out double figure scoring with 15 points. Record: 12-17, 10-5 Mid-Con.
Their final game required a victory for the Grizzlies to claim their first ever Mid-Continent Conference title. Entering its final matchup, OU had recorded victories in eight of their last 11 games. This game proved to be no different as Oakland wrapped up their regular season with another victory, defeating Oral Roberts 86-84 in an overtime battle. This clinched the first place spot and the conference title. Leading the way on the offensive scoring attack was Rozycki with 26 points and six rebounds. Buddenborg followed with 20 points, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals. Houston followed with 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Reynolds rounded out the double figure scoring with 11 points, two rebounds, one steal and one assist. Record: 13-17, 11-5 Mid-Con.
The Golden Grizzlies finished off the season with not only a Mid-Continent conference trophy, but also a special place in the hearts of many. Surpassing many expectations, this group of young, devoted men exceeded the dream of just competing at this level, but also winning with heart and desire. They showed a great degree of enthusiasm that enriched their spirit of never giving up. Once the pain of adversity set in, the season looked like it was doomed for an unsuccessful ending. Instead it showed a reflection of a promising future and a solid ground to build upon. At times they lost key players to injuries, and the team sacrificed their previous roles to fill in and help the team in any way they could. This showed signs of cohesion that made their desire ignite even more and go from an ordinary team in the league to the most extraordinary. Through the season, each player showed signs of greatness, boldness and an undying love that they have for the game, which shined through each face, once they set foot on the court. The transition you could say went smooth like a tear, and their jump into the millenium was a little more like a leap. For now, the Mid-Continent Conference is their territory to roam . Until the battle resumes next season.
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