Grizzlies wins sixth straight game

The Golden Grizzlies men’s basketball team improved to 6-0 in Summit League play Thursday night with an 87-73 home victory over the Kangaroos of UMKC.

Oakland’s freshman guard Ledrick Eackles turned in the best game of his young career, providing his team with a scoring spark off the bench.

Eackles set a career high with 20 points, his fourth consecutive game scoring in double figures.

“Ledrick really came through tonight with some big shots, but we knew he could score; that was never the issue,” head coach Greg Kampe said. “He had to battle (early in the season) to get playing time and he got it because of his defense. And now, people are going to start thinking he can score, too. He’s going to be a big scorer at Oakland University before his career is over.”

Both teams came out with cold shooting in the opening minutes of the first half. Holding a narrow 10-7 lead, the Grizzlies made three consecutive 3-pointers to open up a ten-point lead.

With Oakland’s three-headed monster of Derick Nelson, Keith Benson, and Johnathon Jones resting on the bench, Eackles then scored seven straight Grizzlies points.

“I’m trying to be as consistent as possible, and I think I brought a good spark tonight,” Eackles said. “I just take the shots that are given to me, and if I feel like I can knock (a shot) down, I’m not going to hesitate.”

From this point, Oakland led by double digits for most of the remaining half. The Grizzlies carried a 41-29 lead into the locker room at the break.

But the Kangaroos battled back in the beginning of the second frame, cutting the OU lead down to five with just over 11 minutes to play in the game.

Kampe then called a timeout to settle his team.

The Grizzlies scored on their next five possessions, pushing their lead back to 12 points.

Eackles caught fire again, scoring Oakland’s next 10 points to help offset UMKC’s proficient 3-point shooting. The Kangaroos connected on 10 of 23 shots from behind the arc.

UMKC freshman Kirk Korver, a younger brother of the Utah Jazz’s Kyle Korver, scored 15 points, converting 4 of 6 3-point attempts.

With the game nearly in hand, the Grizzlies made all six of their free throws in the final minute to conclude the scoring.

Benson had his tenth double-double of the season, recording 22 points and 13 rebounds, to go along with five blocks. The Kangaroos defended Benson closely, sending him to the foul line 14 times in the game.

“I got some extra free throw shots in after practice because I knew (UMKC) was undersized and they were probably going to foul me,” Benson said. “I just tried to concentrate and knock (free throws) down.”

Jones also finished with 13 points and 12 assists — a double-double of his own. Nelson contributed 10 points and six rebounds.

After what Kampe called a strong start to the game, junior Will Hudson came down awkwardly on his ankle toward the end of the first half and sat out most of the remaining minutes.

“I’m very worried about whether (Hudson) will be able to play this weekend or not,” Kampe said.

The Grizzlies will take on Southern Utah Saturday at the O’Rena, before embarking on a four-game road trip.

– Dan Fenner contributed to this report.