The Oakland University men’s basketball team collected their second road victory of the season with a 59-57 victory over Eastern Michigan. The Golden Grizzlies (5-8) managed to win their third straight game in Ypsilanti, despite a poor day offensively.
Oakland only shot 31 percent from the field, and went 18 of 31 (58 percent) from the free throw line. Eastern (6-5) did not fare much better, shooting 40 percent on field goal attempts and only hitting 66 percent of their free throws.
Oakland head coach Greg Kampe attributed the cold offenses of both teams to the fact that it is Christmas break. Players may lose focus as the holidays approach, with the semester ending and coaches giving them some time off, he said.
“You usually see sloppy games at this time,” Kampe said. “But that was really an unbelievably bad display of shooting the basketball, especially from the free throw line for both teams.”
Free throw woes were a key factor down the stretch, especially in the final minute, with both teams missing a combined five shots from the charity stripe during the final sixty seconds of regulation.
With Oakland nursing a one point lead with only 49 seconds on the clock, sophomore center Corey Petros had a chance at the line to triple the Golden Grizzly lead. Instead, he missed both free throws and Eastern had a chance to go on top. Senior center Matt Balkema subsequently missed a pair from the line for the Eagles, allowing junior guard Ryan Bass to sink two free throws to give OU a 57-54 lead with less than 30 seconds to play.
Junior forward Daylen Harrison matched Bass and hit two free throws to cut the OU lead to one, and then junior guard J.R. Sims stole the ball from Bass and forced the OU point guard to foul him. However, he only the made the second of two free throw attempts, tying the game.
Bass was able to redeem himself, as he drove the court and hit a long two-point jumper with less than a second left on the clock to win the game.
“He (Bass) wasn’t afraid to take that last shot, and we needed that production out of him,” Kampe said.
Bass finished with nine points and a game high four assists. Junior guard Travis Bader once again led the Grizzlies in points, pouring in 21, including five from beyond the arc. Petros chipped in three points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Oakland jumped out early, going on an 8-2 run to start the game and leading by as many as 14 in the second-half. But, as has been the case frequently this season, Oakland allowed their opponent to storm back near the end.
Eastern used a 15-3 run late in the game to take their first lead of the game, 52-50, with less than three minutes left. Despite the near collapse, Kampe was still pleased with the outcome.
“We had a handy lead until the end and we’ve had a history of stepping on ourselves at the end of games,” Kampe said. “We did that again but we got lucky when they missed a free throw after we missed I think 50 of them, so it was a great win for us.”
Kampe thought that Saturday’s effort against the Eagles summed a good week for the Grizzlies. On Monday, OU had home win over Valparaiso and followed that with a close loss on the road at West Virginia on Wednesday.
“You could be disappointed in how you won, but we won and that’s the object of the game, and were excited for the win,” Kampe said. “A month from now people aren’t going to remember how we won, just that we won.”
Oakland’s 59 points marked the most Eastern has given up at home this season, as well as the first loss the Eagles have suffered in Ypsilanti this year. Since the 2008-2009 season, the Golden Grizzlies had never scored less than 60 points and won a game until Saturday afternoon. Kampe’s high octane offense has only scored less than 70 on two occasions (since the ’08 campaign) and claimed a victory. Exactly four years ago, Oakland beat Eastern Michigan 66-53, the lowest total they had been able to win a game with before this season’s meeting with the Eagles.
As for Coach Kampe, a win is a win and the only stat he cares about is the notch in the win column.
”I’m not going to analyze it, I’m going to go home and eat for two days,” Kampe said.
Oakland’s next game is on Dec. 27 with a trip to Western Illinois at 8 p.m, marking the start of Summit League play. The Golden Grizzlies do not return home until the start of the semester, a Jan. 3 tilt with Omaha.