Maybe the grind of playing three straight games against Top 25 teams finally caught up with Oakland University. Perhaps the Golden Grizzlies were still riding the high of beating No. 7 Tennessee in Knoxville and a moment in the national spotlight.
Or maybe it’s just as simple as Oakland coach Greg Kampe put it in his postgame press conference, after his team lost 69-51 to Michigan Saturday afternoon at Crisler Arena.
“They beat us. I don’t have an opening statement. I don’t know what to say. They beat us”
Whatever the reason, the Golden Grizzlies’ upset train came to a screeching halt in Ann Arbor. Michigan opened up a 20-point second half lead on Oakland, thanks to a 15-3 run fueled by Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway, Jr. The Grizzlies never cut the margin below 10 points for the rest of the game.
Morris finished with a team-high 18 points for the Wolverines. Zack Novak added 13 points and 12 rebounds. Jordan Morgan also grabbed 11 boards for Michigan, and contributed tough interior defense on Oakland center Keith Benson.
Benson was held to 11 points and seven rebounds, as the Wolverines rotated their big men to stay fresh on defense for frequent double-teaming. Michigan’s frontcourt also did a good job of trying to deny the ball to Benson down low. In the first half, Benson totaled just four points and three boards. He was averaging 18.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, coming into Saturday’s contest.
Reggie Hamilton led Oakland with a game-high 23 points, including 6-of-14 shooting from three-point range.
With the victory, Michigan has now won six straight games and improves to 9-2 on the season. Their next game is Thursday, as they host the 1-8 Bryant Bulldogs from Rhode Island. Bryant made the move from Division II last year and play in the Northeast Conference. After that, Michigan opens its Big Ten season against Purdue.
Thursday’s game versus Bryant will be telecast on the Big Ten Network.
The last 10 days looked to be a tough test for the Oakland University basketball team. But Greg Kampe's Golden Grizzlies made an excellent showing of themselves.
Against No. 17 Illinois, Oakland built an 11-point lead (perhaps aided by the accidental use of a women's basketball) before the Fighting Illini came back strong in the second half and eventually won, 74-63.
The Golden Grizzlies took No. 8 Michigan State down to the final buzzer last Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. But thanks to a last-second Kalin Lucas free throw, the Spartans had just enough of a margin to escape with a win.
But Tuesday night in Knoxville, Oakland finally broke through. Facing No. 7 Tennessee, center Keith Benson showed his NBA potential with a dominant 26-point, 10-rebound performance that fueled a stunning upset and made the Grizzlies the talk of the Wednesday morning sports news cycle. ("24 hours of fame," as Kampe put it.)
So what is Michigan in store for when Oakland visits Crisler Arena on Saturday afternoon? The Wolverines aren't ranked, but have won their last five games. John Beilein's team likely won't underestimate the Grizzlies after their showing against three Top 25 teams, however.
But Michigan has had trouble against good big men recently. Harvard's Keith Wright scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Concordia's Rocko Holmes muscled his way to 29 points. So what kind of damage might Benson inflict on the Wolverines' frontcourt?