Men’s basketball rounds out three-game road trip with 67-57 win over Cleveland State

Sam Schlenner

Nearly six minutes into the second half, neither Oakland nor Cleveland State had scored in four minutes. LeBron James had been in-house to watch the pregame number-retirement of former teammate Norris Cole, but right then it looked as if the stardust hadn’t rubbed off.

With Kay Felder so deft on the dish (he would go on to total 11 assists), Jalen Hayes jammed it to put the Golden Grizzlies ahead by five. And then he slapped the backboard.

It was a technical foul in the latter part of a close, laborious game during the grind of conference play with March only a month away for this strangely promising Oakland team.

Head coach Greg Kampe approached him in the locker room after the match’s conclusion. He had, of course, seen him do that, seen him compromise the competition with a stupid, frivolous error of judgement. To see him do such a thing…

Kampe told him he was the happiest guy in the world.

“For three years, I’ve been trying to grab him and get him to show emotion and to show the world that he cares, because he’s just…”

He’s just a guy who wants to do his job quietly, no spotlight required. He’s just a guy who doesn’t want to let on to his ability. He’s just a guy who some days maybe just doesn’t want to play as hard. He’s just a guy.

“I’ve talked to all his coaches and they all, that’s what they keep saying…finding that button on him,” Kampe said. “I’m never gonna find it. But maybe he found it tonight.”

In the afterglow, Kampe looked at Hayes again. He had one more thing to say:

“Now don’t ever do it again.”

Oakland men’s basketball (17-8, 9-3) squeezed an un-Golden-Grizzly-like 67-57 victory out of the host Cleveland State Vikings (7-18, 2-10) on Saturday afternoon in the Wolstein Center. The game wasn’t pretty for either team.

Kampe coughed to stretch well-used vocal chords in the post-game interview with Neal Ruhl on WDFN-AM 1130.

“We did some stupid stuff tonight, but we got around it, figured it out,” Kampe said.

After the half, Oakland shot 1-for-9 from three-point range, finishing at 25 percent overall, which ties their lowest percentage in league play.

“That’s one of those days, the ball wouldn’t go in,” Kampe said. “Good teams find a way to win.”

The win streak is six, five of those on the road, where Oakland is 6-0 in Horizon League play.

The Vikings went 4-for-7 behind the arc in the first half, but shot 1-for-8 in the second half. Recently, when the Golden Grizzlies stop the three, they breathe.

Both teams shot over 40 percent from the field, but both managed a four-minute scoring drought early in the second half that was broken only by Hayes’ invigorating dunk.

Hayes snatched 14 boards (that’s 40 in three games), four of them offensive, and got fifteen points, snagging another double-double, his 11th of the season. He lacked one rebound and two points at the half for the double-double.

Percy Gibson played the final six minutes of the second half with four fouls, but still ended up bagging eight rebounds and 14 points.

Martez Walker got a big three in the final minute to push the lead to ten and out of reach of the Vikings. He made three triples in total and shot 5-for-7 from the line on the way to 14 points and five rebounds.

Kay Felder played every minute of the game and dished 11 assists. He scored 13, shot 7-for-7 from the line and got his 13th double-double of the season. It was an off game.

Felder is nine assists away from being the all-time Horizon League assist leader.

The freshman Xavier Hill-Mais shot 3-for-5 from the field and picked up four rebounds before leaving the court due to an apparent ankle injury.

On the Vikings side, Demonte Flannigan picked up 12 boards and scored 19, his fourth double-double of the season.

Kenny Carpenter scored 13.

Two prominent Cleveland State players and an assistant coach transferred away last April, according to Waiting For Next Year.

The point spread Saturday tracked much closer to the Vikings’ averages earned and allowed. The Golden Grizzlies had been hitting about 86 per game when they had had a say, which was most of the time.

But even though Oakland didn’t have much of a say Saturday afternoon, they still struggled. Not in the defeated sense of the word, but in the triumphant. Maybe Hayes’ technical was one peculiar spark of the many this team has needed to keep on fighting throughout this improbable season.

From a pure scoring perspective, this victory was out of character for the Golden Grizzlies. But it actually repeated a pattern.

They did exactly what they did three weeks ago after they deflated under Northern Kentucky to send the O’rena crowd home disappointed for the third time out of five in conference play, exactly what they did as they then prepared for five of six on the road and brought the mojo to every one:

They endured.

Oakland plays Milwaukee at 7 p.m. ET on Feb. 11 at the O’rena. Watch on ESPN3 or listen on WDFN-AM 1130.

All quotes and information from the opening anecdote are from Kampe’s postgame GrizzVision interview with Neal Ruhl.