Grizzlies take out the Jackrabbits to clinch No. 1 seed

In an offensive shootout with the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State, the Oakland University men’s basketball team was able to wrap up at least a share of the Summit League regular season title with an 88-83 victory Thursday night.

Oakland will look to clinch the regular season title in their next game versus North Dakota State on Saturday. Head coach Greg Kampe knows just how important that game will be.

“We have a lot to play for still. I was taught to share in kindergarten and I don’t like to share. We want to win Saturday, so we haven’t cut the nets down yet,” Kampe said. “We want to be the number one seed. We’ve wrapped up the postseason and at the very worst, we’ll be in the NIT. But we have a TV game Saturday and it’s going to be a full house. We’re playing for a championship Saturday and we’re excited for it.”

Leading the charge in the win were juniors Keith Benson and Will Hudson and senior Johnathon Jones.

Benson was able to secure his 15th double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds, despite being double and triple-teamed throughout the game.

That defensive tactic by South Dakota State didn’t pay off.

Hudson had a career night, scoring 22 points to go along with seven rebounds. This was his fifth straight game off the bench, and has adapted well to the new role. It was the second time in the last three games that he has scored at least 17 points.

“I’m pretty comfortable coming off the bench and I am willing to adapt to the new role. I’m up for the challenge,” Hudson said.

Jones had a season-high 25 points, making a career-high five 3-pointers, to go along with six assists. However, it was his stellar defensive efforts on Jackrabbits sophomore Garrett Callahan (16 points, all in the first half) that helped OU pull off the victory.

“I was just trying to deny him the ball and limit his touches because he is a very good player. If he gets an open look, he’s going to knock it down,” Jones said. “I have to credit the other players around me though for playing pressure defense.”

The Jackrabbits started out the game on a torrid pace, making five of their first six shots and leading the Grizzlies 12-3. OU came out cold, shooting 1 for 6 to start. The slow start didn’t seem to faze Kampe or his squad.

“This was game 29 and there are only so many times that you can tell the guys, ‘Let’s go! It’s a big game!’ If you’re a coach who does that, you’re going to be in trouble,” Kampe said. “We try to stay consistent and get the same level of effort and that’s hard to do. This is college basketball and the key is to peak in February and play your best basketball in March.”

OU has done just that, as its a perfect 12-0 in the month of February dating back to last year.

Unlike the majority of their games this year, where defense was a catalyst to victory, this one was decided by offense.

South Dakota State had 12 offensive rebounds and 14 second chance points, but with Oakland scoring 46 points in the second half on 57.7% shooting, the Grizzlies were able to hold off SDSU for the victory.

Oakland improved its record to 21-8 and 15-1 in the Summit League.

“We talk about consistency and Johnathon Jones is four games away from being the winningest player in Oakland history,” Kampe said. “His four-year career has been something here and with only two left at home, people need to come and watch him because we’re really going to miss him when he leaves.”