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Oakland clinches home playoff game in Horizon League Tournament

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Oakland clinches home playoff game in Horizon League Tournament

Ryan Pini

Ryan Pini

Ryan Pini

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Oakland and the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) both entered the game with a conference record of 9-7 and in a fight for the third seed in the Horizon League tournament.

Brad Brechting has been a key player for the Golden Grizzlies in the second half of the season. It was James Beck who was getting the time on the court until the relatively recent emergence. Beck still serves as a vital role player off the bench, but with Brechting playing like this, he receives significant minutes.

With five players scoring in double figures, the Golden Grizzlies secured a home playoff game for the Horizon League quarterfinals.

The dynamic of big man duo, Brechting and Xavier Hill-Mais has been hard to handle for teams. If you focus on one, the other will light up the opponent for 30 points. Brechting said in a recent Full Court Press interview with Loni Moore he had 100 percent confidence Oakland would win the Horizon League tournament this season.

Braden Norris shot the ball poorly in the game going 1-6 from the court after coming off a recent game of 23 points. Even when Norris has struggled to shoot, he has continually showed great composure and control to help facilitate the rest of the team. Throughout the game, Oakland was able to keep the pressure on UIC forcing over 20 turnovers. Guard Tray Maddox, who has had high expectations all season, was shooting with a confidence that hasn’t been seen as he drilled three threes from well behind the arch.

The second half was stagnant to start until Hill-Mais made an emphatic and-one down low. Before that point, there was a feeling things might get away from Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies showed composure and maturity though, they rallied behind the big play and ended up going up as much as 20 points.

“We just won a game where didn’t shoot the ball very well and for this team, it’s a milestone,” Head Coach Greg Kampe said. “We didn’t shoot well and we were still able to get a 20 point lead and that said a lot about our maturity and how far we’ve come.”

Tempers have been flaring on the away bench lately, last game it was Detroit Mercy head coach Mike Davis and now this week head coach of UIC, Steve McClain. McClain was upset that a back court violation wasn’t called, he then continued to rip off his jacket and throw on his bench. To go with those technical fouls from the head coaches each team tagged on another technical foul.

Brechting went down with an ankle injury with about four minutes left, he attempted to walk it off but he checked out. Brechting checked back in with two minutes left and showed no sign of injury.

In recent years Oakland has gotten a bad reputation for having high expectations in the tournament and losing. This season though, the team came in as the underdog, and now they’re peaking entering the final stretch of the regular season and postseason. The Golden Grizzlies look to exceed expectations further as they host the second home playoff game in the O’Rena since they joined the Horizon League on Wednesday, March 6 at 7 p.m.

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Oakland clinches home playoff game in Horizon League Tournament