Men’s basketball takes down Cleveland State in heavyweight matchup


Sergio Montanez

Men’s basketball defeats Cleveland State on Thursday, Jan. 13 in Cleveland.

The Oakland University Golden Grizzlies men’s basketball team took the top spot in the Horizon League after defeating the Cleveland State University Vikings 70-65 in an intense matchup in Cleveland on Thursday, Jan. 13.

The Golden Grizzlies, who were 3-3 on the road entering the game looked to upset the Vikings who were 8-1 at home. Both teams entered the anticipated matchup with the top records in the Horizon League, Cleveland State at No. 1 and Oakland at No. 2, and carried undefeated records within the conference, making a battle of the unbeatens.

Beyond a top-seed struggle, the Golden Grizzlies and the Vikings have had quite the history together. Historically, neither team has been able to keep an advantage over the other, with both sides having 11 wins head to head against each other, with Cleveland State winning three straight vs. Oakland, including two straight in the O’rena. This intense rivalry made for an emotional and physical match.

The first half started slow for Oakland, as turnovers and cold shooting led to the top-seeded Cleveland State leading 16-7 in the first five minutes of play. Cleveland State deserves credit for their early lead as they set a defensive tone early, forcing Oakland into an unnatural rhythm. Oakland responded by playing from the inside out, staying aggressive and getting into the paint and drawing fouls to regain control of the pace, before a pair of free throws by graduate student forward Jamal Cain would give Oakland the first lead of the night going into the half 33-32.

The second half saw Cleveland State with a pair of scores to give them an opening lead, but from there, it was all Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies turned up the defensive pressure and became more aggressive, heading to the line 12 times, making nine, to control the pace of the game. Oakland had four players with double-digit scoring, led by freshman forward Trey Townsend with 20, as they were able to fend off the Vikings and win the game on the road 70-65.

Though a high intensity and much-anticipated matchup for both teams, questions surround both teams as they recoup from the physical and emotional matchup. Oakland’s defense forced numerous turnovers and was able to lead both teams in transition, outscoring them 16-7, but was outmuscled on rebounds by Cleveland State, who took the rebounding battle 42-34, including two players with double-digit rebounds, where Oakland had none. Oakland was able to stay aggressive against the Vikings, who spent much of the game in foul trouble, and the latter team was unable to capitalize on their trips to the line, converting on 4-12 free throws, including an ice-cold 1-8 in the second half.

Despite struggles, Oakland and Cleveland State had an intense back and forth game that saw multiple lead changes and no lead larger than nine as the two heavyweights of the Horizon League battled for the No. 1 seed.

Oakland will battle the Milwaukee Panthers on Thursday, Jan. 20 to stay undefeated against Horizon League opponents.