Golden Grizzlies Complete Back-To-Back Championship

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Mid-Con First Team
Selection Sarah Judd

Oakland began the 2000-01 season with one thing on its mind ... defending its Mid-Continent Conference title and to give themselves a chance at winning its first Mid-Con tournament and a bid to its first NCAA tournament. OU finished the regular season with a three-game winning-streak, 12-4 in the conference and won its second consecutive regular season title and headed into the tourney as the number one seed. Oakland defeated Valparaiso in the first round of the tournament 76-68, and downed IUPUI 80-73 in the semifinals.

The Golden Grizzlies met up with the number two seed Oral Roberts in the championship game of 2000-01. OU had lost the first two meetings to the Golden Eagles including a last second buzzer beater in Rochester, 55-54. Oakland jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start the game. The Golden Eagles responded and defeated OU 61-46 for its second tournament championship in four years. Oakland capped the season with a 20-10 overall record. This season marked the first 20-win season for Oakland at the Division I level.

Oakland began the season in Omaha, Nebraska participating in the Time Warner Cable Classic Tournament hosted by Nebraska, November 17-19. The Golden Grizzlies faced defending Big XII champion Nebraska November 17. The Cornhuskers scored the first basket and never looked back as they handed Oakland its worst loss of the season 91-59.  Record:  0-1.

The consolation game pinned the Golden Grizzlies against Louisville November 19. OU trailed for most of the game until Katie Wolfe caught fire and led OU to a 76-71 victory. Wolfe scored a career-high 35 points and tied a tourney record as she was selected to the All-Tournament team. Beth Zeone recorded the first double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds.  Record:  1-1.

Oakland returned home November 22 to face UM-Dearborn who hadn't beaten the Golden Grizzlies in 17 tries. The game also witnessed the return of Sarah Judd who was suffering from a knee injury. Oakland had six players in double figures as the Grizzlies reached the century mark, 108-35.  Naomi Nickleberry led all scorers with 19 points, while Judd scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in 11 minutes of action.  Record:  2-1.

OU next invaded the Mountain West Conference November 27 and 29 as they traveled to Laramie, Wyoming and Fort Collins, Colorado.  Oakland led Wyoming 43-37 after 20 minutes, but was outscored 45-30 in final 20 minutes to fall 82-73.   Judd led four Golden Grizzlies in double figures with 17 points and seven boards.   Zeone added 15 points, while Romica Clint scored 13 points and Wolfe chipped in with 11.  Record:  2-2.

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Mid-Con First Team
Selection Katie Wolfe

OU then took on an undefeated Colorado State team and led them by one at the break 36-35. The Grizzlies couldn’t hold off the Rams in the second half as they dropped their second consecutive game, 78-68.  Zeone led the attack with 15 points, three assists and two rebounds.  Record:  2-3.

The Golden Grizzlies continued on the road and headed to Chicago December 2 to open up Mid-Con play against Chicago State. The Cougars hung tough, but OU held them off 73-66.  Zeone and Wolfe led the Grizzlies offensively. Zeone scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and tallied five assists, while Wolfe added 14 points and six assists. Judd reached the 1,000 point plateau with 11 points.    Record:  3-3, 1-0 Mid-Con.

Oakland continued conference play and welcomed Youngstown State December 4 to Rochester. Oakland had never beaten the Penguins at home. OU led YSU 46-35 at half, despite 15 turnovers. The Golden Grizzlies took better care of the basketball and trailed Youngstown State 75-74 with 1:10 remaining.  OU’s Judd hit a three-pointer from 23 feet as the shot clock expired with 42 seconds left in the game and gave Oakland a 77-75 lead. Romica Clint made 1-of-2 free throws and YSU didn’t get off a shot as OU went onto victory 78-75. Judd led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds. Nickleberry and Wolfe had 16 points apiece as Zeone missed most of the game due to a concussion suffered December 2.  Record:  4-3, 2-0 Mid-Con.

Detroit-Mercy came into Rochester and faced an Oakland team who had won three straight. With Zeone out of action, Judd, Wolfe and Nickleberry had to raise their level of play. OU never trailed in the game and won its fourth consecutive game, 83-66. Wolfe had 23 points, five assists, four rebounds, while Nickleberry had 13 points and nine rebounds. Judd had 12 points, nine rebounds and Jodi Young scored 11 points. Record:  5-3, 2-0 Mid-Con.

Oakland and Eastern Michigan were scheduled to play December 11, but had to wait a week due to snow covering the Midwest and the two teams squared off December 17. The Grizzlies boasted a four-game winning streak entering the contest and both teams had won six games each in the twelve-game series.  The Grizzlies shot a dismal 30 percent from the floor (19-63) as they dropped its first game in two weeks, 74-52.  Wolfe and Zeone were the only Grizzlies in double figures with 14 and 10 points, respectively.  Judd and Nickleberry led OU on the glass with 10 boards apiece.  Record:  5-4, 2-0 Mid-Con.

The Golden Grizzlies faced their second MAC opponent Central Michigan in Mount, Pleasant December 23. Oakland and CMU had to go to an extra stanza to settle the outcome and OU pulled out the 67-66 victory in overtime. Judd grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds on her way to her first double-double of the season, 16 points and 17 rebounds. Nickleberry had a career-high 15 rebounds and scored 11 points for her first double-double of the year.  Record:  6-4, 2-0 Mid-Con.

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Mid-Con Freshman of the Year
Naomi Nickleberry

After Christmas, Oakland headed out west December 27-30 to participate in the Masry & Vititoe Tournament in San Diego, California. OU faced San Diego in the first round of the tourney. The Toreros were a number four seed in the previous years NCAA tournament and Oakland proved they can play with tough competition as they made it to the championship game with a 72-62 victory over USD. Judd had her second straight double-double with 30 points and 14 rebounds. Wolfe added 14 points and five assists, while Zeone had 12 points and five assists.  Record:  7-4, 2-0 Mid-Con.

In the Championship game, OU faced Colorado. Oakland led throughout most of the first half, but the Buffaloes went on a 8-0 run at the end of the half and led 29-25 at the break. The 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 frontcourt was too much for Oakland as the Grizzlies were out rebounded 41-31 and fell 74-60. A quartet of Golden Grizzlies were in double-figures ... Wolfe had 14, Judd and Nickleberry each scored 13 and Zeone added 12 points.  Record:  7-5, 2-0 Mid-Con.

After the new year, Oakland opened up 2001 at Morehead State January 3.  Wolfe came one assist away from a triple-double and Zeone tied a career-high with 40 points as OU won 95-74.  Zeone hit 16-of-20 from the field including 6-for-7 from the three to lead Oakland. Wolfe scored 16 points, grabbed 12 boards and dished out nine assists for her first double-double of the year. Nickleberry had 13 points and six rebounds, while Clint had 10 points and five assists. Judd missed the game with flu symptoms.  Record:  8-5, 2-0 Mid-Con.

The Golden Grizzlies returned back to Mid-Con play as they traveled to Kansas City January 6. Oakland defeated a shorthanded UMKC squad (six players) 62-47. Wolfe had another great game with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.   Judd scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Zeone had 15 points.   Record:  9-5, 3-0 Mid-Con.

Oral Roberts was next for the Grizzlies in Tulsa January 8. Oakland held a one-game series lead over the Golden Eagles heading into the contest. ORU held Oakland to just 20 points and OU led 20-19 after one half. The Golden Eagles responded with a 14-4 run to start the second half and downed the Golden Grizzlies 65-63. Wolfe scored a game-high 24 points, grabbed five rebounds and had two assists. Jamie Ahlgren was the only other Grizzly in double figures with 11 points, 3-for-6 from behind the arc.  Record:  9-6, 3-1 Mid-Con.

Oakland returned home for a four-game skid inside the Athletics Center ‘O’rena where the Golden Grizzlies stood at 10-0 (dating back to last year) which placed them ninth in the nation in home winning streaks. First up was IUPUI, January 13. The Jaguars led OU most of the game and with 10 minutes remaining, Ahlgren hit a three-pointer to break things open and Oakland rolled to a 90-70.   Wolfe led all scorers with 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Judd scored 17 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Ahlgren went for 12 points. Record:   10-6, 4-1 Mid-Con.

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Mid-Con Second Team
Selection Beth Zeone

Southern Utah came in January 15 to challenge OU’s 11-game winning streak that had them in the top 10 in the country. It was a showdown for first place as Southern Utah and Oakland both stood at 4-1 in the conference. The two teams battled and exchanged lead changes four times in the first half.  An 8-0 OU run late in the half had Oakland up 10, 38-28 after 20 minutes. Wolfe continued her good play as she netted 11-of-14 from the floor and ended with a game-high 26 points. Zeone scored 15 points and eight rebounds, while Judd chipped in with 14 points and seven boards. Record:  11-6, 5-1 Mid-Con.

Oakland put its winning-streak on the line against the Westerwinds from Western Illinois January 20. OU shot 58 percent from the floor and streaked past Western Illinois 78-64. Oakland improved to 12-0 at home and eighth in the nation in home winning-streaks. Judd led OU with 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Wolfe scored 23 points, nine rebounds and two assists, while Nickleberry had 10 points off the bench. Record:  12-6, 6-1 Mid-Con.

The final home game of the stead came against Chicago State January 22. Oakland held the Cougars to 22 points in the first half and just 16 points in the second half for the 66-38 victory. OU caused 20 turnovers and held the Cougars to just 16-for-60 from the field. Zeone led all scorers with 19 points and Wolfe scored 14 points. Judd had her third double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds.   Record:  13-6, 7-1 Mid-Con.

The Golden Grizzlies headed out on a three-game road trip January 27.  The first stop was in Valparaiso, Indiana to face the Crusaders. Oakland led the entire first half and took a 43-34 lead into the break. Valparaiso wouldn’t die as they started the second half with a 12-4 run and trailed 47-46 with 15:55 remaining. The two teams battled back and forth and with four minutes left Valpo took its first lead 77-75. The game came down to the wire and with just 17 seconds left Ahlgren hit a seven-foot jumper and vaulted Oakland into the lead, 83-81. The senior guard came up with a steal at the other end to preserve the 83-81 victory. The game-winning shot put her at 1,000 points for her career and gave her 13 for the game. Judd scorched the nets with a season-high 30 points and six rebounds. Also in double figures were Zeone and Wolfe, 17 and 15 points, respectively. Record:  14-6, 8-1 Mid-Con.

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Jodi Young

The second stop for OU was in Indianapolis versus IUPUI. Oakland had never downed the Jaguars in Indianapolis since Francis has been at the helm (0-3). The Grizzlies shot 14-for-25 in the first 20 minutes, including 4-for-6 from three-point range to lead 45-34. Oakland continued its hot shooting from behind the ark as they hit 3-for-7 in the second half and cruised 87-71. The quartet reached double-figures again with Zeone leading the way with 25 points. Judd scored 22 points and grabbed nine boards, while Wolfe and Nickleberry each scored 12. Record:  15-6, 9-1 Mid-Con.

The final game on this road trip for Oakland was in Macomb, Illinois February 3. Oakland led by as many as eight in the first 20 minutes and took a two-point edge into the half, 31-29. The second half saw 10 lead changes with WIU getting the final one 53-51 with 6:46 remaining. The Westerwinds made free throws down the stretch and iced Oakland’s six-game winning-streak 72-65. Zeone led OU with 21 points and Judd scored 13. Wolfe chipped in with 11 points, while Nickleberry scored 10. The loss put Oakland just a game ahead of Oral Roberts at 9-2 in the Mid-Con, 15-7 overall.

Next up for the Golden Grizzlies was Oral Roberts in Rochester February 10. The Golden Eagles trailed the Grizzlies by a game-and-a-half in conference standings. The first 20 minutes saw seven lead changes and Oakland used a 12-2 run at the end of the first half and led 34-24. Oakland’s biggest lead was 12, 52-40 at the 9:36 minute mark. ORU held OU scoreless for the next nine minutes and Judd finally ended the drought with a basket and a foul to put Oakland ahead 54-50 with 21 seconds left in the game. Judd missed the free throw and ORU’s Krista Ragan hit a three-pointer at the other end to cut the lead to one, 54-53 with 15 seconds left. Wolfe was fouled and missed the front-end of a one-and-one which opened the door for Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles made it count as Shannon Mims scored a layup with one second left to hand Oakland its second straight loss 55-54. The loss snapped a 14-game winning-streak in the ‘O’rena which was 10th best in the nation. Zeone and Wolfe led OU with 13 points, while Nickleberry scored 12.  Record:  15-8, 9-3 Mid-Con.

Oakland traveled to Cedar City, Utah February 17 to take on Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds stood at 8-5 in conference play and was a long shot at the Mid-Con title with games against conference leading Oakland and Oral Roberts. OU shot just 3-for-18 from long range compared to SUU’s 11-for-21 (52 percent) and suffered its second worst loss of the season, 81-51. The third consecutive loss was the longest losing-streak of the season for Oakland and was the first time since joining the conference (1997-98) that Oakland had lost three straight times in conference play. Judd led the way with 14 points, while Wolfe added 12 and Zeone scored 11.  Record:   15-9, 9-4 Mid-Con.

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Romica Clint

The Golden Grizzlies returned home to face Valparaiso Monday, February 19.  OU didn’t have any time to shake off that dismal performance and came out with fire. The Grizzlies led the entire game and shot 52 percent from the floor (33-63), 10 percent higher than its pervious effort against Southern Utah, for the 82-65 victory. The win kept Oakland tied for first in the Mid-Con with Oral Roberts as they downed Western Illinois. Nickleberry recorded her second double-double of the season with a season-high tying 20 points and 10 rebounds. Wolfe had 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while Zeone scored 12.  Record:  16-9, 10-4 Mid-Con.

Senior night came for Ahlgren and Zeone February 24 versus UMKC. The two seniors didn’t disappoint as Ahlgren led all scorers with 17 points (5-10 from behind the ark) and Zeone scored 15 points in the 72-59 victory over the Kangaroos.  Oakland jumped back into a first place tie with Oral Roberts as they fell to Southern Utah and dropped to 12-4 inside the Mid-Con.  Nickleberry scored 17 points and Wolfe added 10.  Record:  17-9, 11-4 Mid-Con.

The final game of the regular season was in Youngstown, Ohio February 26.  Oakland faced Youngstown State and Oral Roberts traveled to UMKC who only had one win on the season. Oakland never trailed in the contest and hit 7-of-13 long range shots as they downed the Penguins 77-52. Zeone led all scorers with 29 points, 10-for-12 from the floor and 4-of-6 from three-point range. Judd was the final Grizzly in double-figures with 22 points and eight rebounds. Oral Roberts fell to UMKC as Oakland won its second straight regular season title outright. Oakland finished the regular season with a 18-9 overall record and a 12-4 mark in the Mid-Con.

Oakland entered the Mid-Continent Tournament as the number one seed and looked to improve on its semifinal ousting by Valparaiso a year ago. The first round game was versus Valparaiso Saturday, March 3. OU’s Zeone was hot in the first half as she hit 5-for-7 from behind the arc and gave OU a 41-24 lead after 20 minutes. The Crusaders used a late run in the second half led by Marlous Nieuwveen who scored 21 points in the final 20 minutes and got Valpo with four late in the game. The Golden Grizzlies didn’t flinch as Zeone hit six straight free throws and downed Valpo 76-68. Zeone tallied 31 points in the game and it ranks as the fourth best performance in the Mid-Con in tournament play. Judd scored 12 points and nine rebounds, Wolfe added 11 points and nine assists, while Ahlgren went for 10 points.  Record:  19-9.

The semifinal game pitted IUPUI, who upset the number four seed Southern Utah, against Oakland Monday, March 5.  The Golden Grizzlies continued to stay hot from long range as they hit 40 percent of their three-pointers (4-10) and led IUPUI 40-35. IUPUI’s Angie Watt caught fire in the second half as she nailed three long range three-pointers to help IUPUI gain its first lead. OU responded to the charge with a brilliant performance from the charity stripe 27-32, 26-29 in the final 20 minutes, to hold off the Jaguars 80-73. The win vaulted Oakland into its first Mid-Con Tournament Championship game, and a potential NCAA birth. Judd recorded her fourth double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Zeone scored 16 points, Ahlgren had 13 and Wolfe added 10.  Record:  20-9 overall.

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Lori Kipp

The championship game matched the two top seeds in the tourney, Oakland vs. Oral Roberts Tuesday, March 6. Oakland jumped out to a 8-0 lead to start the game. Oral Roberts held off the Grizzlies as they went six minutes without scoring and ORU led 24-15 with eight minutes remaining in the first half. The Grizzlies made a small run at the end of the first half and trailed 28-23 after one period. The ORU defense continued to hold off Oakland’s league leading offense as the Golden Grizzlies didn’t score a basket for the first five minutes of the second half. ORU led Oakland by as many as 16 with seven minutes in the game. OU’s Judd made a run for Oakland and with four minutes to go, Oakland trailed 54-46. The Golden Eagles defense was too much as OU couldn’t get anything to drop and shot 32 percent (19-59) from the floor, 14 percent lower than the previous two tournament games. Oakland fell to ORU for the third time this season and failed to advance to its first NCAA tournament.   Record:  20-10.

The season had a lot of success to it. Another regular season championship and Oakland’s first 20-win season at the Division I level (three seasons). Head coach Beckie Francis won her 100th games as a head coach and completed her fourth season at Oakland with a 74-40 record. Two Golden Grizzlies hit the 1,000 point plateau with Judd December 2 and Ahlgren January 27. Ahlgren ended her career with 1,083 points, 14th best in school history, while Judd ended the season with 1,353, seventh best. Oakland reached the tournament championship in its second year of eligibility and hopes to use the experience to its advantage in 2001-02.

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