In 2005, the Oakland University men’s basketball team defeated the Alabama A&M Bulldogs 79-69 in their first ever appearance in the National College Athlete Association (NCAA) opening round game of the NCAA’s March Madness, advancing them further in the tournament.
Oakland began the second half with a strong run, giving them a 54-37 lead over the Bulldogs. Alabama’s Obie Trotter quickly ended that run with some 3-pointers, but the Golden Grizzlies responded with a 15-4 streak that brought a lead of 70-49.
Going into halftime, Oakland was far ahead of Alabama, but Trotter landed a 3-pointer as the buzzer went off — cutting OU’s lead to 38-35.
During halftime, Head Coach Greg Kampe gave his team a motivational pep talk.
“They looked devastated by that shot,” Kampe said. “I said, ‘forget that.’ We only need to be one point ahead when it’s over, so it doesn’t matter.”
Kampe talked about having a positive attitude when going into the second half.
“The first five minutes were of the utmost importance, and we had to keep our crowd in the game,” he continued.
The Bulldogs’ head coach L. Vann Pettaway gave credit to the Golden Grizzlies performance as his team began to tire out.
“Oakland came in with a great game plan,” Pettaway said. “They did what they tried to do all season. They wanted to get the ball to [Rawle] Marshall and [Cortney] Scott. You have to give them credit. They were well-coached and well-prepared for us. They knew all of our offensive sets and each defensive scheme we threw at them.”
Marshall continued his play streak, leading the Golden Grizzlies with 29 points and nine rebounds. He also played the point to help counter the Bulldogs’ full-court press.
“That’s something coach [Kampe] has experimented with all season,” Marshall said. “I was able to make things happen, but credit my teammates because they opened up the game for me.”
Scott added 21 points and nine rebounds. Overall, OU won the rebounding contest 49-29. They were led by Patrick McCloskey’s 11 — he was the key to OU’s lead in the second half. McCloskey set the tone after Kampe’s halftime talk by scoring five points during the first five minutes.
OU won the Mid-Conference tournament, and Kampe said he thought it would be great for OU to play in the opening round game and thanked NCAA for having it.
“This is the greatest experience our kids have ever had, and don’t change it,” Kampe said to the NCAA. “We wanted to be in it, and it was everything we wanted. You do it for the kids, and you made 15 kids’ lives tonight.”
The match in Dayton, Ohio helped the Golden Grizzlies advance in the NCAA tournament. Marshall said the crowd was the team’s sixth man. This would change when they faced the Tar Heels in Charlotte, North Carolina that Friday.
This win had every student, alumni and faculty member roaring with pride. Libby Baker, 2004-2005 editor-in-chief of The Oakland Post, shared the excitement as she recounted the feeling of watching her team compete in March Madness.
“The spirit was probably best seen last night at the University of Dayton Arena,” Baker wrote. “Hundreds of students, faculty and faculty made the trip south to cheer on our Golden Grizzlies, and it was an experience most of us will never forget.”
Since 2005, Oakland has appeared in the NCAA Division I Tournament two other times: in 2010 and 2011.