The Oakland University men’s basketball team started the new year off in a positive way, dispatching Nebraska-Omaha 91-79 at the O’rena on Thursday night.
The victory, Oakland’s ninth straight at home, marked the first time this season that the Golden Grizzlies (7-9, 2-1 Summit) put two consecutive wins together.
“If you are going to win a championship, you cannot lose at home,” Oakland head coach Greg Kampe said. “You can’t win three in a row until you win two. We want to stretch long winning streaks together this season, because if you want to have a great year, you have to be able to do that.”
Oakland utilized a balanced, up-tempo attack to overcome Omaha (4-13, 1-4 Summit) in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. All five of OU’s starters were in double figures, with junior guard Ryan Bass leading the Grizzlies with 20 points. Bass did a little bit of everything for OU, driving to the hoop, getting to the line, hitting mid-range jumpers, shooting two three-pointers, and dishing out four assists.
“I can’t do it without my teammates, and Coach (Kampe) has always told me that consistency is the hallmark of greatness,” Bass said. “I’ve learned that I do not always have to go for the home run play, but I can keep getting singles to help out the team.”
Senior forward Drew Valentine chipped in the only double-double of the game, scoring 12 and collecting 10 rebounds for the Golden Grizzlies. Junior guard Travis Bader hit five three-pointers on his way to 19 points, sophomore center Corey Petros had 16 points and eight rebounds, and junior guard Duke Mondy had 18 points and a game-high six steals.
Mondy’s defensive effort gave him 49 steals so far this season, the highest total in all of Division I basketball. Oakland’s defense collected 14 steals as a whole, forcing 20 turnovers. Despite the stingy defense, Mondy still saw room for improvement.
“That is something we have been working on every day in practice, but I still think that tonight we gave up too many easy drives to the basket,” Mondy said. “We can still play better defense, so we will watch film and fix that.”
Oakland forced the Mavericks to cough up the ball 12 times in the first half alone, but Omaha was still able to keep the margin close in the first frame.
Omaha used an 11-1 run to take their only lead of the game, 29-28 with less than nine minutes remaining in the first half. However, Oakland responded quickly, using a run of their own to take command of the game.
A 10-0 stretch for OU late in the half helped the Grizzlies take a 50-42 advantage into the locker room, the margin only being close due to Omaha’s hot shooting beyond the arc.
The Mavericks shot an impressive 56% from the field in the first stanza, including 61.5% (8-13) from three point range.
“Honestly, that 8-13 doesn’t bother me at all because we played our defense,” Kampe said. “We created turnovers, played the passing lanes, and made them go faster than they should. We wore them down and it showed in the second half. We are not trying to win in the first five minutes, we are trying to win the game over the whole forty minutes.”
Oakland pulled away in the second half, using two separate 11-2 runs to build up a lead as high as 22. Despite not scoring over the last five and a half minutes of the game, and allowing Omaha to score nine straight points to finish the contest, Coach Kampe still collected his 497th career victory by a comfortable margin.
Oakland heads south to face Alabama on Jan. 5 at 4pm. The Rolling Tide will be Oakland’s last non-conference opponent for the rest of the season until the Sears BracketBuster game in late February. OU’s opponent for that contest will not be known for several more weeks. Until then, Oakland will focus on its Summit League rivals after Alabama, facing South Dakota State on Jan. 10.