The lights go dark, the spotlights shine through and the flashlights from Grizz Gang poke through the fog. The atmosphere was full of excitement inside Little Caesars Arena and it gave Oakland the kick start the team needed to hang with the powerhouse Michigan State University team.
Ever since the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase was announced in April, The Golden Grizzlies have been itching for this day to come so they could get their shot at upsetting one of the best teams in the nation.
Michigan State is having a phenomenal season, starting 9-1 and ranked number two in the nation behind Villanova. Oakland’s team came into the game knowing they were huge underdogs, but there has been magic brewing in this rivalry. From the moment the ball was tossed in the air, people knew something great was going to happen.
It was a back and forth hard fought first 10 minutes of the game and MSU held a slim 22-17 lead over Oakland. The Black and Gold fought hard in the first half and both team’s entered the locker room with a five point margin separating them. Nunn led the Golden Grizzlies with 16 points, Daniels and Hayes were not far behind with seven apiece. Grizz Gang kept the place rocking throughout halftime and it was clear the second half was going to be just as crazy as the first.
The Golden Grizzlies came storming out of the locker room with intensity and determination and took control of the game. Nunn put the team on his back and brought Oakland within three points of MSU. Martez Walker then hit three to give Oakland a 45-44 lead. Walker and Nunn went off for Oakland, going back and forth and hitting three after three. With exactly ten minutes to go in the half, MSU held a small 63-58 lead but the Black and Gold were right in it.
Nunn had a fantastic game with 32 points and he led his team on a crazy run late in the game that brought it down to the wire. Oakland gave it everything, but the Spartans were just too much. When the final buzzer sounded, the result was an 86-73 win for Michigan State. Even though MSU came away with a 13 point win, the game itself was a lot closer than what the final score indicated.
It was a heartbreaking loss for Oakland and emotions were running high for Head Coach Greg Kampe’s squad. After the game, Kampe addressed the tough loss.
“We’re not a cute little story, we’ve done this year after year and we’re a story no one wants to tell,” Kampe said. “Nobody is going to listen to that until we win this game, and that’s what’s killing me.”
This game shattered the attendance record at Little Caesars Arena and it propelled Oakland to the center stage of college basketball with the team’s performance, even if it was just for one night. Now with the schedule getting a lot easier for the Golden Grizzlies going into conference play, they look to bounce back after this tightly contested loss to one of the best teams in the nation.
Kendrick Nunn’s outstanding performance
Before Saturday night, Kendrick Nunn hadn’t touched a basketball in 11 days. From the game last Wednesday against Eastern Michigan to Saturday against Michigan State, Nunn was completely basketball free to rest up his ankle. As of the night before the game, Nunn’s season could of been over. Head Coach Greg Kampe just would not settle for that decision and asked a foot specialist to come in and give his opinion.
“He found out this morning that he was okay, he didn’t know what that pain was and he just couldn’t understand,” Kampe said. “This young man played like that without touching a basketball since last wednesday.”
Nunn went 9-19 from the field with 32 points and seven assists. To be able to perform at such a high level after not playing for more than a week is truly amazing. Kampe said after the game that Nunn would only play roughly 20 minutes, but he played 38 just simply due to the fact that he was playing at such a high level over such a talented team.
“I don’t pay attention to who’s guarding me, I just play and take the shots I know I can get,” Nunn said.
If Nunn continues to play at this level, he will keep on taking those shots and hopefully lead the Golden Grizzlies to a Horizon League Championship.