Oakland defeats Cleveland State at home

By Jackson Gilbert

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With LeBron James watching from a courtside seat Monday night, the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies men’s basketball team defeated the Cleveland State Vikings 59-56 at the O’rena.

Since losing at Detroit Mercy on Jan. 10, Oakland has won four straight games including victories over the two of the top three teams in the Horizon League.

Since league play began Jan. 2, Oakland has knocked off all three teams standing ahead of them in the Horizon with victories over Valparaiso, Green Bay, and now Cleveland State.

Oakland is 4-2 in the Horizon and 9-12 overall.

The four-game winning streak has come with a noteworthy change in play style. For a program that for years relied on a high-octane offense to outscore opponents, Oakland is learning to thrive in the Horizon League on the strength of its suffocating defense.

Senior forward Dante Williams continued to add to his resume for defensive player of the year in the Horizon with another stellar performance, holding Cleveland State guard Trey Lewis to just five points on seven shots.

“I played hard and tried to limit his touches,” Williams said after the game.

Prior to Monday night, Lewis had been named Horizon player of the week two weeks in a row and was averaging 24 points per game in the three games before facing Oakland.

After the game, Oakland head coach Greg Kampe couldn’t contain his praise for Williams.

“It’s unbelievable, the defense he played against that young man,” Kampe said.

Fellow senior Corey Petros, who was tasked with guarding Cleveland State’s Anton Grady, was also quick to praise Dante’s lockdown defense.

“He better get defensive player of the year,” Petros said.

Sophomore guard Kahlil Felder led Oakland with 16 points and six assists. Freshman forward Jalen Hayes finished with 15 and Petros contributed 14.

Kaza Keane scored 16 points for Cleveland State and added six assists in the losing effort. Cleveland State is 6-2 in the Horizon and 12-10 overall.

LeBron, along with fellow NBA star J.R. Smith, made his appearance about half way through the first half. Kampe told reporters after the game that James was there to support his childhood friend, Brandon Weems, now an assistant coach for Oakland.

Oakland will host Wright State Wednesday at 7 p.m.

With a victory, Oakland will have won four straight in the conference and will be in good position to boost its seeding for the Horizon League tournament.