Summit season begins with a dominant performance

Riding a two-game road winning streak, the Oakland University men’s basketball team returned home to Rochester and picked up right where it left off.

The Golden Grizzlies defeated the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah University, 81-65, Thursday night at the O’Rena behind the strength of another double-double from senior Keith Benson and 23 points from junior Reggie Hamilton.

Senior Will Hudson had a strong all-around game as well, with 11 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists.

“It’s a good win for us and it’s good to play at home. We were pretty shoddy on offense early but those things will happen. I thought we defended extremely well and it allowed us to get going, and as poorly as we played on offense, we still shot 50% and scored 81 points,” said head coach Greg Kampe. “I think our defensive pressure really hurt them and wore them out, and that was the key to the game.”

Despite scoring just seven points on 30 percent shooting in the first six minutes of the game, the Grizzlies still lead SUU 10-8 on a breakaway dunk by sophomore Drew Valentine. Valentine turned in arguably the best game of his young career, finishing with 12 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals.

OU and Southern Utah traded scoring runs until the Grizzlies finished the half on a 9-2 streak to lead 31-24 at the break.

One of the biggest reasons for the furious rally to end the half was Oakland’s athletic defense, which pressured the young guards from SUU and caused a shot clock violation.

“Very few teams at our level have the combination of athleticism and size that we have, and we have to take advantage of that on the defensive end. I think we’ve been doing that throughout the season, even against the big boys, with the exception of the last ten minutes against Wright State,” Kampe said. “Other than that game, we’ve been good on defense, and the numbers have shown it. If we continue to guard and be athletic and run waves of people out, I think it’ll behoove us.”

For the game, the Oakland defense held the Thunderbirds to 43.6 percent shooting, forced 17 turnovers and won the rebounding battle. The Grizzlies also blocked seven SUU shots and had 10 steals.

On the offensive side of the ball, OU shot a season-high 53 percent while dishing out 22 assists and scored 19 fast break points.

With the win, Oakland has now won 14 straight games at home and 21 in a row versus league opponents.

OU will get a chance to continue that streak on Saturday, as the team hosts UMKC at 6 p.m. in the O’Rena.