Grizzlies halt 2-game skid with comeback win

In a matchup that featured several momentum-swinning scoring runs, it was one final dash that sealed the victory for the Oakland University women’s basketball team (17-10, 11-5) on Senior Night against North Dakota State (13-14, 9-8).

With less than 30 seconds left in the game, junior guard Sharise Calhoun intercepted a midcourt pass intended for NDSU point guard Katie Birkel, sped past one final defender, scoring a layup to break a 58-58 tie. She would later add a free throw to push the final margin to 61-58.

“They look for Birkel most of the time, so I was just trying to deny her hard,” Calhoun said. “And once they passed it, I figured I could get that gap. It all started from my teammates’ ball pressure. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without that ball pressure.”

Birkel airballed a three-point attempt in the waning seconds of the game, giving the Golden Grizzlies their second win of the season over North Dakota State.

Hoping to avoid the team’s third home loss in a row, Calhoun wouldn’t let her team lose late, scoring 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and three steals.

Oakland once again played without 6-foot-4 center Brittany Carnago and there is no time set for her return. OU head coach Beckie Francis said that the junior’s return would come after a rehab stint.

Oakland didn’t have a single player taller than 5’11”, but Calhoun said that the team’s “will and determination not to lose” was what allowed them to outrebound the Biston 35-32 and outscore them in the post, 30-26.

Despite giving up six inches to NDSU’s tallest player, 6’5” Janae Burich, sophomore forward Bethany Watterworth held Burich to 15 points and five rebounds.

Watterworth also contributed 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks.

“We worked really hard in practice to adjust the defense without Carnago in the lineup, and I think the seniors just refused to lose tonight,” Francis said. “With those two losses and losing (Carnago), our morale was down. The guts we showed tonight, it was huge.”

Senior forward Anna Patritto scored five points to go with eight rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Fellow senior guard Kirstie Malone had nine points and two assists.

In addition to her statistical impact, Patritto’s defense held NDSU’s Abby Plucker to just eight points in the second half. Plucker finished with 25.

In a drastic change from the second half, the entire first half consisted of major point swings by both teams.

After falling behind 10-2 just five minutes into the game, consecutive layups over the next three minutes by Calhoun and freshman guards Zakiya Minifee and Malika Glover pulled Oakland to within 12-10.

Unfortunately for Oakland, Plucker got hot from the field and fueled a run that gave the Bison their largest lead of 13, 25-12.

Over the final eight minutes of the half, however, the Grizzlies stormed back with a 19-6 run that tied the game at 31-all heading into halftime.

“We just came in focused for our final home game, and said it right then and there; we’re putting an end to it. We’re coming back to win this game,” Malone said. “Key people stepped up in their roles and we just got it done.”

Throughout the second half, the team traded baskets until Oakland secured a five-point lead with almost 14 minutes left in the game. After that point in time, the lead changed four more times before Calhoun’s game-winning defensive play.

Oakland travels to Southern Utah and UMKC to round out the regular season later this week before departing for the Summit League Tournament March 5-8 in Sioux Falls, S.D.