Men’s basketball smothers the flames

AuJenee Hirsch, Staff Reporter

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The men’s basketball team stomped out the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames (14-14, 7-8 HL) 87-75 on Sunday, Feb. 19, marking Oakland’s sixth win in a row.

Head coach Greg Kampe is pleased with the momentum the team has maintained since its overtime win against Milwaukee on Jan. 29. The win against UIC moves Oakland to 11-4 in the Horizon League with only three games left in the 2017 regular season.

“You know, when we went through that struggle, everybody that covered us and was around for a long time knew my frustration with us offensively,” Kampe said in the postgame press conference. “I’m really pleased that the kids seem to have that swagger back, that belief in themselves . . . It’s just great to see that we’re back, we can deflect adversity and . . . we can believe we’re a really good team.”

Redshirt junior Nick Daniels agreed with Kampe on a personal level. Daniels had another strong performance in the win, topping his previous season high of 16 points that he achieved in Friday’s game against Valpo. He was 5-for-10 from the floor, 3-for-6 from the three and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, totaling 17 points.

“I just got my confidence really,” Daniels said in the postgame press conference. “Kampe just really let me play my game, and it’s really making me confident in myself, and he’s been confident in having me out on the court. My confidence is just building up a lot more with each game.”

With the Black and Gold back to their strong offensive play, their free-throw percentage has steadily increased since the Jan. 29 game against Milwaukee. Oakland shot 84.8 percent from the free-throw line, their best percentage since their game against Youngstown on Feb. 2.

“We’ve just been working on it every single day,” said redshirt junior Martez Walker. “Like [Daniels] was saying in the last interview, we just come here early, get shots up and get free throws up as well. Just get the touch back to how we’re used to shooting the ball.”

Walker led the team with 21 points, adding four turnovers and two steals.

Oakland had some strong defense against 3-point shooters in its last few games, but tonight, the Flames broke through the Golden Grizzlies’ defense, shooting 12-for-26 from the three.

“ . . . With a team that’s not really known for shooting, we handled it, we made adjustments, we played more zone tonight than we’ve played, we did a lot of different things, and our kids handled it,” Kampe said. “I’m very pleased. We had [an opposing] team light it up, and we still had a double-digit win.”

Junior Stevie Clark was back in action today after sitting out of the past eight games due to a hand injury. With such a long time off and his left hand still taped up, Kampe was impressed with his performance.

“I told him after the game I was very pleased,” Kampe said. “I thought he played under control. . . The one thing that I worry about with him and why I’m going to be tentative and slow with him is because he puts that ball in his left hand all the time . . . Even though he’s a right-handed kid, he’s left-handed dominant with the ball, and that’s the broken thumb.”

Overall, both teams had solid performances. Sherron Dorsey-Walker put up 17 points for Oakland, shooting 4-for-8 from behind the arc. He also added seven assists.  

UIC’s 6-foot-9 forward, Tai Odiase, shot 8-for-10 from the field and led the Flames with 16 total points. Following Odiase was Tarkus Ferguson with 14 total points, six assists and five turnovers.

The Flames bench scored 22 points, while the Golden Grizzlies bench scored 30. Oakland is still one game behind first-place Valparaiso (22-6, 12-3) in conference play.

The Black and Gold will be back on the court at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at home to play against Youngstown State. This game will mark senior Dorsey-Walker’s last game at home.