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Senior guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker did not want to walk bare foot across a dingy and mostly dirty floor at Calihan Hall after taking a warm shower Friday night. So he wrapped towels around both feet and comically shuffled the 20 feet to his dressing area by hanging on to both towels and sliding across the floor.
It was one of the light-hearted moments in a mostly business like dressing room. Yes there were some smiles and laughter following this emotional 89-80 victory of the University of Detroit Mercy Titans Friday night.
Jalen Hayes smiled. Chris Palombizio smiled. Even former Golden Grizzly Kay Felder, who took a break from the grind of the NBA, smiled in the corner. But the halftime euphoria was gone. The post-game was more businesslike as Oakland did more preparation for the future than celebrate the past.
During his post-game speech you could tell that Oakland coach Greg Kampe was preparing for Friday night's nationally televised showdown against Valparaiso on the Blacktop at the O'rena. He was preparing his team for the Horizon League tournament at Joe Louis Arena in March. He was preparing them for any bumps along the road between here and Motor City Madness.
The men were happy with the victory over Detroit Mercy, but that win was already in the rear view mirror. After a first half of near perfection, coaches and players were not thrilled about breakdowns and turnovers that occurred even though the game was mostly decided.
It is difficult to duplicate perfection.
Kampe lectured his team about the breakdowns, but also praised it for its greatness.
Now on to the future.
"Now we have a game at home in front of our fans," Kampe said. "We have to show them who we are. Last time we were in this position we wet our pants."
Oakland (19-7 overall and 9-4 in the Horizon League) takes on first place Valpo (20-5, 10-2) Friday night. A victory would move the Black and Gold to within one game in the loss column of the Crusaders. Oakland is currently tied with Green Bay for second place.
Oakland has been here before. There was a packed house and national television audience against Green Bay. The Phoenix led from start to finish and stunned Oakland 80-72, handing the Black and Gold their third straight home loss.
Oakland learned a lesson that night. You have to play hard in this league to win, even before a packed house at home.
Oakland learned another lesson at Detroit Mercy. Opponents won't throw in the towel even though UDM fell behind by as many as 20. The Titans kept on chipping at the lead and Oakland stopped handling the press with ease and bolstered the Titans hopes. Oakland won, but Kampe does not want them to forget the tough times even in a big victory.
Kampe was happy with the win and acknowledged some wonderful moments. However, this team appears to be fueled most about overcoming adversity than celebrating victory.
"I feel like we had some turnovers down the stretch," Dorsey-Walker said. "Me making two turnovers in three minutes. I feel like those things can haunt you when big games roll around. Even though we played a good game you want to take the bad out of a game. We focus on the bad to help us down the road."
Kampe touched on some of this during his post-game talk.
"We are going to be in this position again," he told his team. "Maybe this Friday at home. Maybe at Joe Louis Arena. We will be in this same spot. We have to play. We have to play smart."
Kampe continued his lecture.
"We were awesome in the first half. We were not bad in the second half. We were just stupid. We made free throws. We made big play after big play. We did not drop our head when they banged (baskets) in. We got great contributions from everybody. We were a hell of a team."