Grizzlies survive late scare from IPFW, extend home conference win streak



As junior guard Reggie Hamilton’s second missed free throw bounced off the rim, a collective gasp echoed across the O’rena. The Golden Grizzlies’ home conference winning streak of 26 games was in serious jeopardy.

Those two added points would have given Oakland University a seemingly insurmountable four-point lead with 9.8 seconds left. With one monumental defensive play, however, Hamilton made up for his misses, preserving Oakland’s home dominance over the Summit League.

After the Mastodons grabbed the rebound, IPFW’s Ben Botts rushed the ball up court for a potential game-winning shot, only to have Hamilton block his attempted three-pointer.

“I knew Botts was going to go for the win,” Hamilton said. “A couple of shots he made earlier, he gave me a little push-off, so I knew that was coming. He did it again, and I got my hand in there. Thank God it wasn’t a foul.”

After recovering the loose ball, Hamilton raced down court and was intentionally fouled with just tenths of a second left in the game by IPFW’s Jason Smeathers.

Mastodons head coach Dane Fife marched to half court to argue that a foul should have been called on Hamilton’s block, and had to be restrained by one of his players. Fife received two technical fouls and was ejected from the game.

After things settled down, Hamilton made two free throws and freshman Travis Bader hit four more to push the Grizzlies’ lead up to its final 86-78 margin.

Hamilton scored a game-high 30 points, nearly matching the career-high 31 points he scored in the Grizzlies’ last game against IPFW, an 86-68 win on Jan. 15.

Hamilton was 7-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-6 from three-point range and 13-of-17 from the free throw line for the Golden Grizzlies (18-9, 13-1).

“I think Reggie took it upon himself,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “He’s the new guy; all the other guys have championship rings and he doesn’t have one. I kid him about it a lot, talk to him about it a lot, and I think he took it upon himself to change this game.  That’s what great players do, and he did it.”

Kampe was impressed that the Grizzlies were able to hold on for the win despite not playing at their best level.

“We got spoiled the first nine or 10 games, winning by 20 points every week,” Kampe said. “When you play for six months, you can’t have your ‘A’ game every night. What you have to do to win championships is find ways to win when you don’t have it, and we did that tonight.”

Oakland led at halftime, but fell behind early in the second half. The Grizzlies trailed 60-55 with just under 10 minutes left, but a 12-0 run sparked by Hamilton and Bader gave them the lead for good.

Kampe was particularly impressed with Bader’s three-pointer that gave Oakland a 63-60 lead and sent the O’rena crowd into a frenzy.

“For a freshman to have that kind of courage, it’s pretty amazing,” Kampe said. “Most freshmen would cower down if they weren’t making shots, but he just turned, caught and fired it. That was an NBA-range three, and I don’t think the net even moved.”

Bader was shooting less than 20 percent from the field prior to the shot that helped swing the game in Oakland’s favor, but he finished with 15 points.

Senior Keith Benson turned in another strong performance for Oakland with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. It was his 15th double-double of the season and 44th of his career.

Botts and Frank Gaines were the leading scorers for the Mastodons (16-9, 9-5), who are currently fourth in the Summit League standings.

Oakland has a chance to clinch its second consecutive regular season Summit League championship on Thursday, Feb. 17, against North Dakota State University. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. at the O’rena.