It was a busy weekend for the Oakland men’s basketball team, securing important wins against opponents Valparaiso and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) on Friday, Jan. 6 and Sunday, Jan. 8, respectively. The victories bring the Golden Grizzlies to 4-0 in the Horizon League and 14-3 overall.
In its first game of the weekend, Oakland never trailed behind the league’s top team, Valparaiso on Friday.
Stevie Clark, assisted by Sherron Dorsey-Walker, was the first athlete to put points on the board with a good 3-pointer at 19:45, giving Oakland an early edge. The Golden Grizzlies sustained their opening momentum, garnering 38 points to Valparaiso’s 34 at halftime.
Outnumbering Valparaiso 10-2 in turnovers, Oakland used this advantage to contribute to its score.
Although Valparaiso acquired 21 rebounds to Oakland’s 17, the Golden Grizzles assured their lead by converting four fast breaks into crucial points. At the end of the first half, Oakland overshadowed Valparaiso 4-0 in fast breaks.
The second half saw Oakland maintain and expand its lead, outscoring Valparaiso 40-32. Ultimately, the Golden Grizzlies concluded the game 78-66, conquering the Crusaders.
A key facet to the win against Valparaiso was Martez Walker. Throughout the game’s entirety, Walker was responsible for scoring 25 points for Oakland, as well as garnering five rebounds and three steals.
The win is sure to send a message to the league, as the Crusaders were picked to finish first in the Horizon League preseason poll. The Golden Grizzlies followed directly behind with a predicted second-place finish.
Electrified from their victory over Valparaiso, the Golden Grizzlies hit the road once more on Sunday, this time to take on the UIC Flames.
The Flames proved to be a formidable opponent, trading the lead with Oakland twice during the first half. Despite Oakland’s offensive efforts, its inability to make 3-pointers find the net put the Golden Grizzlies down 31-37 at the intermission.
Recharged and focused, Oakland worked to correct key mistakes regarding blocking UIC defensively.
In the second half alone, the Golden Grizzlies overpowered UIC 11-3 in blocks. Defensively, this was crucial as the second half continued.
Midway through the half, Oakland unleashed an 11-1 scoring drive, propelling the Golden Grizzlies ahead of UIC 50-45, but the Flames were quick to respond. K.J. Santos drained an important 3-pointer for UIC, giving the home team the lead and Oakland just 2:05 on the clock to answer.
Jalen Hayes’ layup at 1:37 allowed Oakland to retake to lead 58-57, but he was not finished there. Determined to deny a UIC victory, Hayes sent back a UIC layup attempt, giving Oakland the win.
Oakland’s performance against UIC was one for the record books. The Golden Grizzlies blocked 18 out of 71 shots from UIC. Eighteen blocks in a single game is the new record in the program and Horizon League- three away from matching the NCAA’s record of 21.
“It was a defensive battle,” Oakland Head Coach Greg Kampe said. “Going to Valpo and holding them to 35 [percent] on the floor, then coming here and holding UIC to 24 [percent] on the floor, I think you have to look at your defense and say ‘that’s pretty good.’”
The Golden Grizzlies will have some time to rest and train before they take on rival University of Detroit Mercy at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 13. The game will also be broadcast live on ESPNU.