On the heels of a successful 2007-08 season that saw the Oakland University women's basketball team finish the season 20-10, becoming the only team in The Summit League to beat a ranked opponent this season, the Golden Grizzlies were honored at the team's annual banquet held Monday, March 31.
The Golden Grizzlies opened the season with lofty expectations, picked to finish second in The Summit League pre-season poll, and seemed destined to surpass those expectations after a strong showing in non-conference play.
After opening the season with a pair of wins, including a 107-40 demolition of Marygrove, the Golden Grizzlies dropped a heartbreaker to No. 24 Auburn, 71-63, at the O�Rena in a game where the Tigers came from behind to pick up the win. After knocking off Central Michigan at home, the Grizzlies dropped another game in similar fashion to the Auburn contest, this time at No. 7 Georgia, before OU returned home and posted an 85-75 win over No. 21 Florida State.
League play opened in early December for the Golden Grizzlies, and OU jumped out to a 2-0 mark in league play after home victories over Southern Utah and UMKC. After a tough loss to No. 13 West Virginia at home, the Golden Grizzlies reeled off four consecutive wins. In their final non-conference tune-up, the Golden Grizzlies turned in a record-setting performance in a 99-19 win over Rochester College. The win was OU�s largest win of the Division I era, and saw the Golden Grizzlies turn in a 42-0 run during the game.
OU headed west and faced a pair of league newcomers, topping North Dakota State 80-67 in Fargo, N.D. before falling to eventual Summit League regular-season champion South Dakota State 80-71 in Brookings, S.D.
The Golden Grizzlies returned home after facing a pair of newcomers to face a pair of familiar opponents, starting with longtime nemesis Oral Roberts.
The history between Oakland and Oral Roberts' women's teams has been dotted with big games, including a game in the finals of the 2007 Mid-Con tournament that saw ORU emerge victorious. In the first meeting since that encounter in Tulsa, Oakland emerged victorious with a 71-57 defeat of the Golden Eagles at the O'Rena.
Oakland seemed to have momentum on its side after its next game, against Centenary, as the Golden Grizzlies opened the contest on a 28-0 run before taking a 93-43 victory to improve to 12-4 overall, 5-1 in league play.
However, the game came at a great price as freshman Brittany Carnago, one of OU's most solid post players, suffered an injury that would sideline her for eight games.
The Golden Grizzlies headed next to Fort Wayne, Ind. for a contest at IPFW. The 6-11 Mastodons handed OU a 75-70 defeat, but after OU recovered to hand first-place (and to that point undefeated) Western Illinois a 72-46 loss in Macomb, Ill. in their next game, it seemed that the Grizzlies would be able to move on despite the injuries.
However, the injuries began to mount as junior point guard Riikka Terava, senior forward Charlese Greer, and senior forward Hanna Reising all missed significant playing time down the stretch due to injury.
After not having lost consecutive games all season, the Golden Grizzlies dropped three consecutive league games to IUPUI (64-61), South Dakota State (64-63 in overtime), and North Dakota State (58-54) all by less than five points before returning to the win column with a 72-55 win at Centenary.
Once again, the Golden Grizzlies were set to face off against Oral Roberts, but this time the Golden Eagles handed OU a 73-66 defeat at the Mabee Center in Tulsa, Okla.
The Golden Grizzlies came back the following week and turned in an impressive performance against IPFW, toppling the Mastodons 79-64 at the O'Rena, before closing out the home season with a weekend sweep of IUPUI (66-62) and Western Illinois (66-62, in overtime) on senior night.
OU won its final two games of the regular season to enter The Summit League tournament on a five-game winning streak, and at full strength for the first time in nearly two months.
The Golden Grizzlies opened the tournament with a 60-49 win over Centenary before Oral Roberts abruptly ended the Grizzlies� season with a 71-61 defeat in the semifinals of the league tournament.
Despite the difficult ending to the season, the Golden Grizzlies posted several notable accomplishments over the course of the season.
Junior Jessica Pike became a two-time first team all-league honoree, picking up First Team All-Summit League honors after being named First Team All-Mid-Continent Conference the year before. The Clawson, Mich. native eclipsed the 1,000 point mark in the final game of the season, and was also named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Region team.
Sophomore Melissa Jeltema earned a Second Team All-Summit League honor after leading the OU squad in rebounding and finishing second in scoring.
The Golden Grizzlies 20 wins marked the third time of the Division I era (and the third time under head coach Beckie Francis) that OU reached the 20-win mark.
OU finished the season at 153 in the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), second in The Summit League to only South Dakota State, and ahead of Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Massachussetts, Arizona, Alabama, Miami (Fla.), Western Michigan, Memphis and Washington State.
While the season was a banner campaign for the Golden Grizzlies on the court, Oakland's student-athletes also performed exceptionally well in the classroom, as the team was honored with the Excellence in Academics award, presented each semester to the team with the highest overall grade point average in the athletics department.
"I am tremendously proud of how well our players did for the second straight year both on and off the court," said Francis. "Having a grade point that is in the top ten in the country and that is the highest in the department is a great accomplishment.
"The players on this team have proven to be the epitome of what student-athletes are all about. They are great ambassadors on and off the court for Oakland University."
Oakland University 2007. All rights reserved.