Popkey honored, seals the deal late against Detroit

Elena Popkey being honored for recording 1,000 career points prior to Wednesday’s pink game against Detroit.

The Oakland University women’s basketball team outlasted the University of Detroit Mercy’s second half run to defeat the Titans 64-58 at its annual pink game on Wednesday night.

Junior guard Elena Popkey was recognized before tip-off where she received a commemorative basketball to honor her accomplishment of scoring 1,000 career points in her first appearance back in the O’rena since hitting the mark on Feb. 4 at Green Bay.

“I’m really happy for her, she’s put in a lot of hard work and effort to get those thousand points,” head coach Jeff Tungate said.

She becomes the 26th player in program history to join the list.

“It’s obviously a great accomplishment, I’m very honored,” Popkey said.

“I don’t want to give anything away from that but really, it’s just every night playing with these girls. They’re amazing and I hope people really get to see that. That’s what means the most to me.”

Tungate said the next step for Popkey in developing her game is to become the scorer down the stretch. He said she needs to be the wanting the ball to make the big play.

On Wednesday night, that is exactly what she did.

Detroit was first on the board after sophomore Haleigh Ristovski hit a jumper less than a minute into action. After Popkey answered quickly with a jumper herself followed by a three-point shot from senior Peyton Apsey, the Grizzlies never trailed again in the first half.

They held the Titans to just 25.8 percent shooting while only giving up 19 first half points.

In the second half, Oakland remained dominant until two three-point shots by redshirt sophomore Rosanna Reynolds and freshman Nicole Urbankick sparked a 25-8 run for Detroit to bring them within one with just under three minutes remaining.

Redshirt senior Zakiya Minifee finished a layup to extend the Grizzlies lead to 57-54. Reynolds was fouled at the other end and split the free throws.

An offensive rebound by Apsey led to a missed three-point shot by junior Olivia Nash. Nola Anderson came up with another offensive board and passed the ball out to Popkey who nailed a baseline three to put the Grizzlies up 60-55 with just 36 seconds to play.

“It was one of those shots where you’re not always sure if you should take it but I was in rhythm and I just was feeling it so I thought I’m going to let it fly and it went in,” Popkey said.

Popkey finished the night with 18 points on 8-12 shooting. She also tallied 8 rebounds, three assists and one steal.

Minifee finished with 14 points on 5-8 shooting and Russell finished with seven points and 13 rebounds for the Grizzlies. Nash recorded her ninth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Grizzlies won the battle on the boards, out-rebounding the Titans 53-35. They finished with 22 offensive rebounds.

For the Titans, Reynolds led the way with 26 points and nine rebounds.

Oakland is coming off a four game road stretch in which they went 1-3. They suffered an overtime loss at Cleveland State on Saturday, Feb. 14.

“We lost a heartbreaker at Cleveland State on Saturday and to come back from that and start out the way we did tonight I think is a really good sign,” Tungate said. “Hopefully it’ll give us the confidence we need to get a little run going.”

Tungate was presented the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Trophy at the conclusion of the game. The win also ties the Metro Series at eight points.

The Grizzlies are now 5-7 in the Horizon League and 11-14 overall. They currently are in fifth place.

The women travel to Wright State (8-4, 19-7) this Saturday, Feb. 21 to take on the second place team at 2 p.m. They return to the O’rena on Thursday, Feb. 26 against Green Bay (10-1, 20-4), the first place team, at 7 p.m.