Men’s basketball crowned Horizon League regular season champions

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Men’s basketball crowned Horizon League regular season champions

Senior Sherron Dorsey-Walker led the Golden Grizzlies to victory over the Panthers with 28 points, a career best.

Senior Sherron Dorsey-Walker led the Golden Grizzlies to victory over the Panthers with 28 points, a career best.

Nowshin Chowdhury

Senior Sherron Dorsey-Walker led the Golden Grizzlies to victory over the Panthers with 28 points, a career best.

Nowshin Chowdhury

Nowshin Chowdhury

Senior Sherron Dorsey-Walker led the Golden Grizzlies to victory over the Panthers with 28 points, a career best.

Melissa Deatsch, Sports Editor

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In spectacular comeback fashion, the Oakland University men’s basketball team has captured the 2016-2017 Horizon League regular season championship. Oakland solidified its share of the title with an 86-75 win over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Feb. 26.

Sherron Dorsey-Walker led the way for the Golden Grizzlies, draining a career-high eight 3-pointers and totaling a career-best 28 points in the win over the Panthers. Martez Walker followed closely with 21 points and seven rebounds.

After a close first-half battle ended with a 39-39 tie heading into the break, the Golden Grizzlies pulled ahead in the second half and never looked back.

The Golden Grizzlies started off Horizon League play strong with a 4-0 start. But after suffering defeat to rival University of Detroit Mercy on Jan. 13, Oakland entered a tailspin that made many fans and even head coach Greg Kampe skeptical that they’d be able to recover.

During a six-game stretch that included three more conference losses and a couple of sloppy wins over Northern Kentucky and Milwaukee, Kampe admitted to viewing a regular season championship as out-of-reach in the postgame press conference after the team’s loss to Green Bay on Jan. 27.

“How many of our fans believed when we walked off the floor against Cleveland State that night that we would win the championship?” Kampe asked during his postgame GrizzVision interview with Neal Ruhl. “While that disappointed me, maybe it helped us motivate us.”

What followed that Green Bay game, however, was a nine-game win streak to close out the regular season for the Golden Grizzlies. Valparaiso remained on the top of the league, but on Feb. 17, Oakland completed the series with a sweep over the Crusaders.

“I feel like we were able to find ourselves,” Dorsey-Walker said. “We saw the things that were beating us, which was turnovers, not playing defense and taking bad shots . . . and we just refocused. We made sure we were having fun playing, and I feel like that was a big part of us going on this win streak.”

On the final day of Horizon League play, Valparaiso fell to Northern Kentucky 82-78, surrendering its one-game lead to the Golden Grizzlies.

Dorsey-Walker said the team didn’t know the results of the Valparaiso game while they fought for the win against the Panthers.  They were just taking care of business.

“We knew they were going up against a tough opponent,” Dorsey-Walker said. “But we were just focusing on what we needed to do and not worrying about whether they won.”

With today’s win over Milwaukee, Oakland and Valparaiso conclude the regular season with matching records of 14-4 in conference play. That series sweep gives Oakland the tiebreaker and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Horizon League tournament.

“It means everything,” Dorsey-Walker said. “I came to Oakland, obviously I had some family problems, but I wanted to continue the traditions at Oakland. To finish off my career with a championship for Oakland means everything . . . We want that conference [Motor City Madness] championship next week, so I feel like this was just another step in where we’re trying to go.”

With the No. 1 seed secured, the Golden Grizzlies now shift their focus to the highly anticipated Motor City Madness Tournament.  Play begins on Friday, March 3, when the bottom-four teams in the league will face off to determine who will take on the top-seeded Golden Grizzlies and Crusaders.

Oakland will match up against the winner of the game between Cleveland State and Youngstown State.

At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, the Black and Gold will take the floor of the Joe Louis Arena, in hopes of finishing what they’ve started.