Men’s basketball blows double digit lead, loses to Northern Kentucky

Despite a 13-point lead in the first half, the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies men’s basketball team fell to the Northern Kentucky Norse at the O’rena on Sunday. 

The Golden Grizzlies, who scored 40 in the first half, couldn’t find their footing offensively as their Horizon League rival Norse forced turnovers and controlled the pace of the game in the second half to secure the game on Oakland’s home court in front of a sellout crowd. Oakland’s offensive struggles mostly came from turnovers, as they led both teams with 23 turnovers to 12, which led to 34 Viking points compared to Oakland’s nine.

The first period started off rocky for the Golden Grizzlies, who fought inside with a physical Vikings team who kept it a one-possession game for a while until a pair of Micah Parrish jumpers put Oakland up by six. Oakland upped the defensive pressure, forcing turnovers and out-hustling for rebounds until Oakland led 31-18. 

From there, the Norse would go on a 14-9 run until the half ended. Oakland would go into the half up 40-32. Turnovers were an early problem for the Golden Grizzlies, who had nine at the half. Oakland’s Jamal Cain and Micah Parrish lead both teams in scoring with 13.

Oakland’s struggles to take care of the ball spilled into the second half, opening the period with four straight turnovers to the Norse, who cut the lead down to two. The Golden Grizzlies would fend the Vikings off until 9:18 left in the game, when a 3-pointer gave Northern Kentucky their first lead of the night. 

The Horizon League competitors traded leads back and forth until a quick Norse run saw the Golden Grizzlies go down by nine. Oakland struggled to keep control of the ball, turning it over 14 times in the second half, but despite a late fury and a few clutch shots, Oakland would fall to the visiting Norse 71-66.

Outside of Cain and Parrish combining for 40, Oakland struggled to shoot the ball from the floor, shooting around 38% from the field, including 29% from three, but the real issues were turnovers, to Head Coach Greg Kampe’s frustration. 

“If you look at our top four offensive players, the other three of them turned the ball over eight, five, and four, and how many of those 17 turnovers were forced by Northern Kentucky?” Kampe said.

These frustrations have boiled over to Oakland’s record, where the Golden Grizzlies have now dropped two straight at home after being undefeated on the blacktop this season going into Friday’s game against Wright State.

With two games left in the regular season, Oakland stays at home against two of the top competitors in the Horizon League, those being Purdue-Fort Wayne and Cleveland State. The Grizzlies will have time to think about today’s game, taking the next few practices to figure things out before Thursday’s game. Oakland will look to lock up a first-round bye in the Horizon League tournament with a pair of wins, which is a daunting task against a pair of juggernauts.

Despite their struggles, Oakland remains one of the most interesting teams in the Horizon League and one that will command respect in the playoffs. Oakland must focus on each game moving forward or risk stumbling into the postseason.