Things just looked bad.
After Oakland lost to Northern Kentucky at home on Jan. 19, it looked like the preseason hype was just talk — like this team was not what head coach Greg Kampe made it out to be before the season started.
The team that hadn’t lost a league game at home the previous season had already dropped three on the black top, two of which came from teams in the bottom half of the conference, and was sitting at just a 3-3 record.
But the loss to Northern Kentucky felt like it stung worse than the others — the newest member of the Horizon League, who was picked to finish last in the conference in the preseason poll, beat the Golden Grizzlies by 17 points in front of Oakland’s home crowd.
When Kampe sat in front of the microphone in the post-game press conference, he seemed beside himself. Jalen Hayes and Kay Felder hung their heads, neither saying much. The overall mood was one of disbelief.
This wasn’t supposed to be happening. With the preseason player of the year, three Power Five transfers and a deep bench stepping on the court each game, this team was a favorite to win the league.
Instead, Oakland looked less like a championship team and more like a team that was settling for a “rebuilding” season, playing with minimal heart and giving even less effort.
“It was like we were lost in the locker room after that game,” redshirt sophomore Nick Daniels said.
It seemed like nobody knew what was wrong, but everybody knew a quick turnaround was desperately needed.
Well, a quick turnaround is exactly what Oakland got.
Since the gut-punching loss to the Norse, the Golden Grizzlies haven’t lost. The team has snuck its way into second place in the league after winning six straight games, five of which were on the road. The lone home game might’ve felt somewhat like a road game for the team too, since it stayed in a hotel the night before.
“We changed as a team after that loss to Northern Kentucky,” Daniels said.
“[Felder] said he needed help being a leader on the court, so some of the upperclassmen took what he said and started to become leaders and bring everybody together, even through adversity.”
With just five games left on the 2015-16 regular season schedule, this streak has provided this team, and its fans, with some renewed faith.
And after seeing the atmosphere in the O’rena after the Northern Kentucky loss, nothing was needed more than that.