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Drew Ellis covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. His news and notes keep you up to date with Golden Grizzlies men's basketball.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Benson named to Defensive All-America Team

ROCHESTER - Oakland University junior Keith Benson was named to the 2010 Lefty Driesell Defensive All-America team by CollegeInsider.com.
Benson finished eighth in the country with 3.3 blocks per game and broke his own single-season school record with 117, third-most in Summit League history. He set a new single-season school record with 367 rebounds, just one shy of matching the all-time league record.

Senior Derick Nelson was named to the Mid-Major Defensive All-America team. Nelson served as Oaklands defensive stopper, holding opposing teams top player in check and finished his career seventh all-time in school history with 141 steals.
The pair led Oakland back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005 after winning a Summit League record 17 games en route to a conference tournament championship.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Center Keith Benson named All-America honorable mention

From staff reports
ROCHESTER — Oakland University’s Keith Benson was named to The Associated Press All-America team honorable mention. Benson, a 6-foot-11 junior center, becomes the second Golden Grizzly to earn All-America honors, joining Mike Helms in 2003.
Benson led the Golden Grizzlies by averaging 17.3 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game. He broke the single-season school record with 367 rebounds, one shy of The Summit League single-season record. Benson also set a new school record in blocked shots (117), ranked second in free-throw attempts (261) and third in free throws made (189).
A native of Farmington Hills, Benson was named Summit League Player of the Year after leading the conference in double-doubles (18), blocked shots, rebounds and free throws made. He garnered Mid-Major All-America honors by CollegeHoops.net. Benson will make his decision on whether to leave for the NBA or return to school in early May.

First team
Evan Turner, Ohio State, 6-7, 205, junior, Chicago, 20.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.9 apg, 54.0 fg pct, 1.8 steals (64 first-place votes, 323 points)
John Wall, Kentucky, 6-4, 195, freshman, Raleigh, N.C., 16.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.8 steals (62, 319)
Wes Johnson, Syracuse, 6-7, 205, junior, Corsicana, Texas, 16.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.9 blocks (45, 280)
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, 6-2, 190, senior, Herndon, Va., 18.5 ppg, 3.3 apg, 39.9 3-pt fg pct, 82.7 ft pct (32, 243)
DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky, 6-11, 270, freshman, Mobile, Ala., 15.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 54.1 fg pct, 1.8 blocks (26, 205)

Second team
James Anderson, Oklahoma State, 6-6, 210, junior, Junction City, Ark., 22.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg (27, 197)
Sherron Collins, Kansas, 5-11, 205, senior, Chicago, 15.6 ppg, 4.4 apg, 85.1 ft pct (15, 194)
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, 6-6, 200, senior, Caracas, Venezuela, 19.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.3 apg, 85.1 ft pct, 1.7 steals (14, 190)
Jon Scheyer, Duke, 6-5, 190, senior, Northbrook, Ill., 18.6 ppg, 5.0 apg, 36.6 minutes, 87.5 ft pct (5, 144)
Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia, 6-7, 230, senior, Newark, N.J., 17.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.3 apg (10, 138)

Third team
Greg Monroe, Georgetown, 6-11, 247, sophomore, New Orleans, 16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, 52.1 fg pct (9, 119)
Cole Aldrich, Kansas, 6-11, 245, junior, Bloomington, Minn., 11.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 55.9 fg pct, 3.5 blocks (7, 91)
Damion James, Texas, 6-7, 225, senior, Nacogdoches, Texas, 18.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 50.9 fg pct, 40.2 3-pt fg pct (1, 83)
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, 6-8, 246, senior, Schererville, Ind., 22.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg (4, 76)
Darington Hobson, New Mexico, 6-7, 205, junior, Las Vegas, 16.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 4.6 apg (1, 50)

Honorable mention
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest; Kevin Anderson, Richmond; Luke Babbitt, Nevada; Keith Benson, Oakland; Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga.
Randy Culpepper, UTEP; Noah Dahlman, Wofford; Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech; Devan Downey, South Carolina.
Muhammad El-Amin, Stony Brook; Kenneth Faried, Morehead State; Alex Franklin, Siena; Jimmer Fredette, BYU; Marquez Haynes, Texas-Arlington.
Gordon Hayward, Butler; Lazar Hayward, Marquette; Adnan Hodzic, Lipscomb; Reggie Holmes, Morgan State; Robbie Hummel, Purdue.
Charles Jenkins, Hofstra; Garrison Johnson, Jackson State; Orlando Johnson, UC Santa Barbara; Tyren Johnson, Louisiana-Lafayette; Dominique Jones, South Florida.
Adam Koch, Northern Iowa; David Kool, Western Michigan; Damian Lillard, Weber State; Kalin Lucas, Michigan State; C.J. McCollum, Lehigh.
E'Twaun Moore, Purdue; Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford; Patrick Patterson, Kentucky; Quincy Pondexter, Washington; Jacob Pullen, Kansas State.
Jerome Randle, California; Andy Rautins, Syracuse; Justin Rutty, Quinnipiac; Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's; Kyle Singler, Duke; Ekpe Udoh, Baylor; Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State; Hassan Whiteside, Marshall; Ryan Wittman, Cornell.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Oakland's Keith Benson and Johnathon Jones named NABC All-District



ROCHESTER - Oakland senior Johnathon Jones and junior Keith Benson were both named to the District 12 First Team as the National Association of Basketball Coaches selected its Division I All-District teams.
Jones ranks third in the nation with 6.4 assists per game and finished his career with a Summit League record 819 assists. He was named to the All-Summit League First Team and All-Tournament team. Jones started in a school-record 135 consecutive games and led the Golden Grizzlies to 85 wins during his four seasons, tied for the most by a single player.
Benson, a 6-foot-11 center from Farmington Hills, had one of the most successful seasons in school history. He grabbed a league-high 367 rebounds, one shy of the single-season league record, setting a new OU standard. Benson also led The Summit League with 18 double-doubles, blocked a school record 117 shots and led the team with 17.3 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game en route to being tabbed Summit League Player of the Year.
The NABC All-District teams are selected and voted on by member coaches of the NABC, these student-athletes represent the finest basketball players across America. The 240 student-athletes, from 24 districts, are eligible for the State Farm Division I All-America teams, to be announced April 3 at 11 a.m. at Bracket Town in the Indianapolis Convention Center during the NABC Convention and NCAA Final Four.
Joining Benson and Jones on the District 12 first team were IUPUI's Robert Glenn, Butler's Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack. Oakland finished the season with a school-record 26 wins, 17 league wins and league-record .944 winning percentage. The Golden Grizzlies advanced to their second NCAA tournament appearance in five seasons.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Freshman guard Ledrick Eackles impressive in NCAA tournament debut


MILWAUKEE — Oakland freshman guard Ledrick Eackles was a man determined to get the Grizzlies back into Friday’s NCAA tournament first-round contest against Pitt.
In his first tournament experience, the Louisiana native had 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
“We lost,” Eackles said. “I’m happy the team made it. I’m thankful for Derick Nelson and Johnathon Jones for helping us get us here. We’ll see Oakland University in the NCAA tournament in the near future. Players are taking it hard, and we want to start working out immediately, so we can make it back here in the (upcoming) years.”
Among the many hustle plays fans have grown accustomed to seeing the athletic Eackles make, he was swiping at the ball and pressuring Pitt, as Oakland did what it could to keep the game from getting too far out reach in the second half.
With 6:37 left in the first half, Eackles raced the ball upcourt on a fast break and appeared to draw a foul as he rainbow finger-rolled the ball into the hoop from eight feet away. Instead a charge was called on Eackles and the Panthers continued to roll toward their 39-26 halftime lead.
“Ledrick played very well in spurts. That charge call where he threw it up in the air and it went in, that was kind of a little bit of a turning-point call for him,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “But what I liked about Ledrick is down the stretch, he just went and played.”
During the post-game press conference, Eackles remained confident and upbeat about the Grizzlies’ future. Oakland also returns sophomores Drew Maynard and Blake Cushingberry and brings in guards Travis Bader (redshirt) and Reggie Hamilton, a transfer from UMKC.
Eackles began to peak around the beginning of the conference season in January, but cooled as the Grizzlies ascended the record books. Friday was Eackles’ eight double-digit scoring game.

Follow Paul Kampe on Twitter @PaulKampe.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Grizzlies guard Drew Maynard says he's ready, shows it in practice



MILWAUKEE — Oakland coach Greg Kampe first said sophomore guard Drew Maynard wouldn't be playing in Friday's first-round game against Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament at the Bradley Center.
He changed his mind as he watched the athletic Maynard throw down highlight-reel dunks in the team's practice Thursday afternoon.
"Based on that dunk, I think he's ready," Kampe said. "Unfortunately, I don't think they're going to give him an open lane to the basket like that."
Kampe still plans on starting sophomore guard Blake Cushingberry for the fourth consecutive game, which he's done since Maynard was forced from the lineup with a severe ankle injury caused when he came down on a teammate's foot in a practice prior to the Summit League Tournament.
Oakland plays Pitt at 2:45 p.m. in the first-round game in the West Regional. The opportunity is one Maynard has long dreamed of.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NCAA edition Grizz Talk

It's a thrill for Will Hudson, as Grizzlies head to Wisconsin

Two homecoming trips hung in the balance Sunday night, as Oakland sat patiently waiting with hundreds of its fans inside the O’Rena to hear its named called during the CBS selection show. A trip to New Orleans would have been a homecoming of sorts for freshman Ledrick Eackles, who is from Louisiana. The berth the Grizzlies received, however, has junior forward Will Hudson headed back to his home state for the second time this season, as Oakland plays Pitt Friday afternoon in Milwaukee, about an hour from Hudson’s hometown Madison, Wis.
“As soon as they announced it, all my boys were texting me to get some tickets. It’s definitely special to get an opportunity to go do this,” Hudson said.
“A lot of them are loyal to following me and supporting me. They’ll be up there.”
The location also works out well for many of Oakland’s fans who would not have been able to make a trip to the West Coast. Hudson was quite excited about his return to the Bradley Center, the site of Friday’s first-round matchup, where the Grizzlies go in as the 14th seed.
“We’ll have a good fan base there to say the least. I love that court, I played there in high school. This is the opportunity of a lifetime right here, playing in the NCAA tournament and going back to my home state,” Hudson said.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe made good on a recruiting promise made to Hudson in regards to playing a game in his home state when the Grizzlies visited the Badgers at the Kohl Center in November.

Grizzlies get Miami area big Kyle Sikora for 2010-11 class

Oakland University has another commitment from a big man for next season from Florida Christian (Miami) center Kyle Sikora.

“He’s been an under-the-radar type of kid until recently. He was looking at a couple Division II schools. … He’s the kind of kid you don’t really know where he’s going to be because he has such a really big upside,” Florida Christian coach Dan Pruessner said.

Sikora, a 7-footer, joins Utica Eisenhower center Corey Petros as the second big man to commit to the school for 2010-11. Dayton Dunbar PG Ryan Bass is the program’s other commitment for next season.

Sikora was being looked at by Florida State and the University of Michigan and also had an offer from University of Maryland Baltimore County and Fairfield. He visited Oakland during homecoming weekend and watched the Grizzlies beat Oral Roberts on Johnathon Jones’ buzzer-beater.

“That was really crazy,” Sikora said. “It was the perfect time, they had it set up perfect (for my visit). … I visited the school and felt like this was the place I need to be.”

Seeing what Oakland’s coaches have been able to do transforming center Keith Benson was also a plus for Sikora.

“It’s good to know I’m kind of in the same position he was when he came in,” Sikora said. “He’s improved a lot since he first got there.”

Sikora, who hails from the Florida Keys, transferred to Florida Christian for his senior season. He’s averaging 14.6 points per game, 10 rpg. and six blocks, and has sown remarkable improvement since joining the team.

“He’s developed tremendously in the last several months. If he can do this much in six or seven months, what can he do when he gets to that point where he’s got a good weight-training program and four or five coaches consistently working with him,” Pruessner said.

The coach said Sikora’s late blooming and the team’s playoff struggles may have limited the recruit’s exposure.

“He developed so late, pretty much anybody outside of Dade County isn’t going to recognize him to a certain extent, and us not making states, that hurt him a little bit,” Pruessner said.
Sikora said his transfer has paid off handsomely, noting if he hadn't made the move, he wouldn't be in the position to play for Oakland next season.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oakland center Keith Benson named Mid-Major All-America

From staff reports

ROCHESTER - Junior Keith Benson was named Mid-Major All-America First Team, announced by CollegeHoops.net on Monday. Benson, a native of Farmington Hills, led The Summit League in blocks (116), rebounds (358) and double-doubles (18).

Joining Benson on the All-America teams from The Summit League were IUPUIs Alex Young (Second Team) and Robert Glenn (honorable mention).

Benson was named Summit League Player of the Year prior to the conference tournament and posted back-to-back double-doubles in the first two games, before grabbing 17 boards in the title game to help lead OU to its second tourney title. He finished inside the top 10 nationally in blocks (3.4 per game) and double-doubles.

CollegeHoops.net Mid-Major Player of the Year: Gordon Hayward, Butler, So

CollegeHoops.net First-Team Mid-Major All-America
G Charles Jenkins, Hofstra
G Gordon Hayward, Butler
G/F Ryan Wittman, Cornell
F Keith Benson, Oakland
C Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford

2010 CollegeHoops.net Mid-Major All-America Teams
Second-Team Mid-Major All-America
G Shelvin Mack, Butler
G CJ McCollumn, Lehigh
F Kenneth Faired, Morehead St
F Alex Young, IUPUI
C Adnan Hodzic, Lipscomb

Third-Team Mid-Major All-America
G David Kool, Western Michigan
G Damian Lillard, Weber St
F Marqus Blakely, Vermont
F Larry Sanders, VCU
F Alex Franklin, Siena

Fourth-Team Mid-Major All-America
G Gerald Lee, Old Dominion
G Matt Janning, Northeastern
F Tyren Johnson, Louisiana-Lafayette
F Charles Garcia, Seattle
F Orlando Johnson, UCSB

Honorable Mention
Chaisson Allen, Northeastern
Noah Dahlman, Wofford
Rahmon Fletcher, UWGB
Jeff Foote, Cornell
Robert Glenn, IUPUI
Andrew Goudelock, Charleston
Joseph Harris, Coastal Carolina
Marquez Haynes, UT-Arlington
John Holland, Boston U
Reggie Holmes, Morgan St
Anthony Johnson, Montana
Matt Howard, Butler
Jeremy Lin, Harvard
Ashton Mitchell, Sam Houston St
Derek Needham, Fairfield
TJ Robinson, LBSU
Ryan Rossiter, Siena
David Schneider, William & Mary
Chris Singletary, Kent St
AJ Slaughter, Western Kentucky
Ben Smith, Jacksonville
Ryan Thompson, Rider
Dominic Waters, Portland St

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Oakland coach Greg Kampe at peace with 14 seed

Oakland coach Greg Kampe addressed a room of roughly 150 guests at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester Monday morning and quickly cleared the air.
"I was kind of mad when I was sitting there and they announced that we were a 14 seed. My first reaction, maybe it was an ego thing, 'How can we be a 14 seed when we're a 51 in the RPI?' You work so hard at your RPI and that's the thing that determines where you're seeded and where you go," he said.
But after some reflection, the 26-year coach realized the importance of the team's destination — Milwaukee. The site is a mere six-eight hours of a car ride, more easily accessable to the team's fanbase.
"I'm really happy and excited about the draw," he continued. "It's the best thing that could happen to us and Pittsburgh is a good basketball team. They've got a great tradition and they have a great name recognition, so when they lose, (everyone will know)."
The game tips off at approximately 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday afternoon and will be carried nationally on CBS.

L. Brooks Patterson gives his thoughts on OU basketball

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was one of some 150 guests on hand for an Oakland basketball breakfast at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester Monday. During the hour-and-a-half celebration, Oakland players Johnathon Jones, Derick Nelson, Keith Benson and Will Hudson fielded questions from the audience, as did coach Greg Kampe.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

No. 14 seed OU will head to Milwaukee for first-round NCAA game against Pitt


From staff and wire reports
ROCHESTER — Oakland is the 14th-seeded team in the West Region, with a first-round matchup against third-seeded Pittsburgh Friday at 2:55 in Milwaukee's Bradley Center. The draw surprised Oakland coach Greg Kampe, who had hoped for a higher seed. The location bodes well for the Grizzlies, whose fans will have an easier time traveling to a neighboring state than they would to say, San Jose, Calif.

Oakland earned an automatic bid after winning the Summit League championship last Tuesday over IUPUI behind senior forward Derick Nelson's tournament MVP performance. The Grizzlies (26-8) are in the NCAA field for the second time. They won a play-in game in 2005, before falling to eventual champion North Carolina.
Kampe and junior center Keith Benson (Birmingham Detroit Country Day) say the team's preseason goal was to win two NCAA tournament games this year, and the goal was restated after the team wrapped up the Summit League championship in Sioux Falls, S.D., last week.




Inside Derick Nelson's Summit championship pregame physical therapy


Many people saw what Derick Nelson was capable of on Tuesday’s national broadcast of the Summit League Tournament championship game, when the senior poured in 36 points in Oakland’s victory over IUPUI. Some even heard how unlikely the dream scenario was just hours before game time.
Nelson, who has battled a groin injury much of the season, tweaked his back just three hours before tip off in the most important game of his life. After a session biomechanical specialist Shawn Sherman, Nelson played an awe-inspiring, tournament MVP caliber performance.
“He had just gotten up from sleeping and was hunched over. He was able to walk, but it was ugly. He didn’t look like the elite athlete he is. He looked pretty awful,” Sherman said.
For Nelson, the key to his back pain was actually coming from his groin, which Sherman and director of sports medicine Tom Ford monitored before and during the game.
“I was in some immense pain before the game. I could barely walk. Once the game started, my adrenaline took over and I was all right. I wasn’t missing that game for nothing," Nelson said.
“I’m a senior and that could have been my last game and I wasn’t going to miss it.
Sherman said Nelson said the pain was minimal following the session.
“I felt like he was better, but one wrong move and he could fall apart again,” Sherman said.
Sherman was more than pleasantly pleased to see how Nelson was doing after halftime.
“I texted a buddy of mine and said ‘I’m not feeling good things about Nelson, I feel like he’s either going to get hurt or have an awful game,’ ” Sherman said. “At halftime, I told him I’ve never been so glad to be wrong about something, because (Nelson) had 20 points. I was flipping out in the stands. I felt like I put duct tape on him and he just was an animal.”
It would be hard to measure, but a fan must wonder how much of the performance was based on medical attention and what portion was drawn from Nelson inner desire to finally win the championship.
“All I really remember from the game is the final buzzer going off and us being on top. I didn’t really care about the points," Nelson said. "I would have been content scoring zero points and us still winning, that was the whole reason I was there and that’s what I was striving for."
Nelson took a medical redshirt and declined offers to play professionally in order to return to this team following a season where he missed all but two games due to a broken foot. He made it clear early on that his goal was to win the tournament championship, and nothing less would do. His play on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment.
(The Oakland Press/JOSE JUAREZ)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oakland women's season officially finished

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — As top-seeded Oral Roberts' season faded in overtime Tuesday in the championship game of the Summit League Tournament, so did the WNIT hopes of the Oakland women.
The Golden Grizzlies were hoping to play in their third WNIT in four seasons, but the Golden Eagles will be taking that trip, while the Jackrabbits will be going to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
Oakland coach Beckie Francis and her players were in attendance Tuesday afternoon.
"We had our whole team sit there and watch it so we would know immediately what the outcome was and whether we'd be playing in the postseason or not," Francis said. "The raw emotion is maybe cold cruelty and torture to have our players sit their live, but I just wanted them to see the atmosphere and how hard it is to play here at South Dakota State and win in the championship game. So there were two reasons we did it that way."
Were the Grizzlies openly rooting for the Golden Eagles? No, just on the inside.
"I told them, 'Be careful,' because there's 6,000 South Dakota State fans watching them and we still have to travel to Brookings, (S.D.) next year and potentially play them again for the championship," Francis said. "But I did see a few claps once in a while when Oral Roberts would make a basket."
The No. 2 Grizzlies became the third team of that seed to fall in the quarterfinals, when they lost to No. 7 Western Illinois, 68-57, Saturday.
"Our career here has been amazing," senior forward Hanna Reising said after a Monday practice. "I'm not going to just think back on this one game, obviously it's not how I wanted to finish my career, but the teammates I've played with over the last four years and the experiences I've had with them are unforgettable and I'm not just going to think about this last game we had."
Reising is one of three Oakland seniors along with All-League First Team guard Melissa Jeltema and point guard Riikka Terava.
Oakland hadn't lost in the tournament quarterfinals since 2003-04. The Grizzlies lost to South Dakota State in the finals last season.

Paul Kampe covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at paul.kampe@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulKampe.

It's Oakland University and IUPUI in Summit League Tournament Finals


IUPUI is the only Summit League team that has been able to withstand the force of the Oakland men this season, and fittingly the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are meeting in the tournament finals Tuesday night at the Sioux Falls Arena.
Oakland is in the finals for the fourth time in the past six seasons, having won it in 2005 as the No. 7 seed. A trip to the NCAA tournament is at stake Tuesday.
The game can be seen on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. and will be carried on WDFN-AM (1130).


Click here for the full game story

Monday, March 8, 2010

Golden Grizzlies get weary IPFW in Summit League semis


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Oakland men finally learned their opponent for Monday's semifinal late Sunday night, as fifth-seeded IPFW knocked off South Dakota State in a 71-66 battle.
The Grizzlies get what is likely a weakened Mastodons team less than 24 hours after their quarterfinal game ended. Conversely, Oakland spent its Sunday up in the stands watching the dogfight.
"Having this day off really helped us. We had a couple people that were banged up, so it's going to help us out a lot," senior point guard Johnathon Jones said. "I remember playing three games in a row last year, it gets to year toward the second half. Hopefully, we can keep throwing fresh bodies at them and wear them out."
At his postgame press conference, IPFW coach Dane Fife downplayed the fact his team would be hitting the hardwood so soon after its victory.
"They play with sprained ankles, they play with broken fingers. They play with all kinds of injuries, so a little tired legs won't bother these guys," he said. "The main thing is focus, because we can't beat Oakland if we make mistakes."
South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy thinks the Grizzlies will have an advantage thanks to Sunday's battle.
"Oakland should benefit from this game, because these two teams just beat each other up," he said.
Oakland picked up its first win of its remarkable conference season back in December at IPFW and held on as a last-second heave grazed the rim to escape with a season-ending win at the O'Rena little more than a week ago.
"Last time, it was a close game toward the end, but if we keep (Keith) Benson out of foul trouble, he had 32 that game and really dominated the paint, so we know we have to go inside-out and establish a presence on the inside," Jones said.
"We know they're going to try and have something planned for Kito, so we're ready for that."
The game is at 7 p.m. and broadcast on FSN Detroit and can be heard on WDFN-AM (1130).

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oral Roberts holds the key to Grizzlies' postseason berth

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — As the No. 2 seed in the Summit League Tournament, the Oakland women controlled their postseason destiny. After falling in the quarterfinals for the first time in six years, the Golden Grizzlies are now hoping top-seeded Oral Roberts wins the tournament, allowing them to claim the league's National Invitation Tournament bid.
"It's really weird. I've coached this tournament I think eight years, and I've never lost a quarterfinal," Oakland coach Beckie Francis said. "I don't know how to handle it, I'm just pretending that we're still playing and hope Oral Roberts wins the whole thing, so we can keep practicing and play in the WNIT."
The Grizzlies went to the WNIT last season and in 2007. Francis is in her second run as Oakland coach, which began in 2005-06, the last time the Grizzlies won the tournament. Her first stint ended after 2001-02, the only other season they've won the tourney.


The top-seeded Golden Eagles are the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament behind freshman Kevi "Super" Luper, the conference player of the year and another frosh, Jaci Bigham. The freshman backcourt leads the nation in scoring (42.4 ppg) and led the Golden Eagles to their first No. 1 seed in history. They last won the tournament two seasons ago, before South Dakota State took the league by storm. Oral Roberts was an eight seed to last season's tournament.
The Grizzlies' loss to No. 7 seed Western Illinois Saturday was just the third time the two seed fell in the quarterfinals. The last time before this season was in 2007-2008 when the Leathernecks fell to UMKC.
The loss seems even more shocking when considering the Grizzlies defeated the Leathernecks by 36 combined points in the home-and-home, regular-season series.
"When we played them there, it was a one-point game at the half. We were frustrated in the locker room," Francis said. "We hit more shots in the second half there and ended up pulling out a double-digit win. It was a tough game there, too. You can never take a seven seed lightly. They don't have any pressure."
Francis, senior Melissa Jeltema and freshman Bethany Watterworth sat stunned in the postgame press confernce following the loss.
"Everyone is still in shock, everyone is still sad, but we're keeping our heads up because we've had a great year and we even feel like we've overachieved after Brittany Carnago went down."
Carnago, one of the league's most intimidating defenders, went down with an ACL injury in a November exhibition and will not return this season. The loss forced the Grizzlies to adjust their defensive schemes and left them with a lack of size. They finished the regular season with a 14-4 record and their ninth top-three seed in 11 seasons.
Francis and company aren't retiring for the season with the loss. The coach said she expects the Golden Eagles to prevail and the Grizzlies to return to the WNIT and she's using the tournament's remaining games as a scouting opportunity.
"It's a good opportunity for us to watch the other teams and we're following who is clutch on each team. We're learning a lot of plays. We're following performances and I'm just watching the personnel to see who can deliver and who can't," she said.

Paul Kampe covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at paul.kampe@oakpress.com and follow him at the Summit League Tournament on Twitter @PaulKampe.

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Grizzlies go zone to beat Kangaroos

For the first time of more than one or two possessions, coach Greg Kampe switched up his defense to keep UMKC at bay.
"We threw a new wrinkle out there last night and went into a zone. It was a big key for us winning the game," he said. "We got in foul trouble and we had injury problems, we went zone, and it worked."
A Kangaroos 3-pointer pulled them within two points with 6:57 left in the first half, but the change was implemented and the Grizzlies recovered to go up 45-35 at the break. They also implemented the zone for five minutes of the second half, during which they led by as many as 21 points.
"Once they got to 28-26, we went to a zone and got it back up to a 10-point lead. In the second half, when we were struggling again with fouls, we went to a zone again," Kampe said.
"We hadn't done it all year, but that's what you do. You save things for the tournament and you throw it out there. If it doesn't work, you're not a very smart coach, and if it does work, then you get a win. ... That and our bench were the two major factors in us winning last night."
Oakland still doesn't know its semifinal opponent, which will be the winner of Sunday's IPFW-South Dakota State 4-5 seed quarterfinal.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oakland moving on

The Oakland men didn't succumb to the fate fit for their female counterparts Saturday at the Sioux Falls Arena. They pounded UMKC, going up by as many as 21 in the second half and winning 85-70. They await the winner of Sunday's IPFW-South Dakota State quarterfinal.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sophomore Drew Maynard out for Summit Tournament

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Oakland begins its first league tournament as the top seed Saturday night against Missouri-Kansas City. And they'll be doing it without sophomore guard Drew Maynard, who has a severely sprained ankle. Maynard injured the ankle when he landed on a teammates's foot during practice Wednesday. He gingerly jogged around the perimeter of the team's practice facility Friday afternoon, as the team got in its first practice in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe said he plans to start sophomore Blake Cushingberry Saturday in Maynard's absence.
"It's an opportunity for (Cushingberry) to step up," Kampe said. "That's been the great thing about this team all year, we've had a lot of different players step up when something happens. We go 8-10 deep and now it's (his) turn to step up."
Maynard has started the past seven games, and the Grizzlies are 7-0 with him in the starting five.
In other injury news, senior forward Derick Nelson aggravated an injured groin in the regular-season finale against IPFW.
"Today, he went full-boar, he's ready to go," Kampe said. "But it's a situation where we could get out there for five minutes in the game and he's not be able to go. So, we're prepared for it and we're ready."
Kampe has maintained that it doesn't matter who the Grizzlies (23-8, 17-1) play, they're going to play to win, but the Kangaroos (12-17, 6-12) could give the Grizzlies fits.
"It's a bad matchup for us. Of all the matchups, it's the one I wouldn't want to see because they're small and they'll space you out. If they start making shots, it could start affecting our lineup," Kampe said. "By putting (Cushingberry) in there with them, we'll go small with them, (Keith Benson's just going to have to go out there and guard them. We can't allow their centers to just sit out there and make 3s. If they make some early, it could affect who we play and affect Benson's status, so we have to make sure we get out early and guard."
Senior point guard Johanthon Jones, just named to the Summit League First Team, said there shouldn't be any chemistry issues with Saturday's starting lineup.
"Cushingberry knows the offense. Last year, he started a lot of games for us when Nelson went down," Jones said. "He fits in really well and brings a defensive presence."
Jones has adamant about his desire for a championship, even joking he would trade his cherished SUV for a ring.
"I want this so bad. Ever since I've been here, I've been so close. This is my third year we have a a really good shot at winning. I can't even explain how much I want this."
The Grizzlies would get a day off Sunday if they win Saturday, which greatly increases their chances of a tournament championship, the team captain said.
"Not having to play in those games would really help us get our legs back," Jones said. "And we'd get to prepare for the next upcoming game. But we have to win the first game, we don't overlook anybody."
The Grizzlies played three games in three days in last year's tournament, which was evident by a late-game drought in the championship game that effectively cost them the title against North Dakota State.
Saturday's game can be heard on WDFN-AM (1130).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reising, Jeletma, Watterworth earn Summit League honors

From staff reports
Senior Hanna Reising was named Sixth Woman of the Year, senior Melissa Jeltema was named to the All-Summit League First Team and freshman Bethany Watterworth was named to both the Second Team and the All-Newcomer Team.
Jeltema finished third in the league in both scoring (15.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg), where she also leads the Golden Grizzlies in those categories. She is also the eighth-leading scorer in school history with 1,528 career points.
Watterworth (Lake Orion) made an immediate impact for the Grizzlies, averaging 14.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg in her freshman campaign. She closed out the regular season with a career-high 32 points last weekend in an 82-68 victory over IPFW and has tallied 25 double-digit scoring games.
Reising garnered Sixth Woman of the Year honors after coming off the bench in 16 of OU’s 18 league games, while averaging 10.4 points per game for the Golden Grizzlies. The senior also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per league game. Reising connected on 47 percent of her shots from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line, both second-best on the team.
Oakland’s 17-12, 14-4 record marks the 23rd consecutive winning season for the program. The Golden Grizzlies open the Summit Leauge Tournament as the No. 2 seed Saturday at 3:30 against Western Illinois.

Oakland University center Keith Benson and coach Greg Kampe earn Summit League high honors

From staff reports

Oakland Junior Keith Benson was named the Summit League Player of the Year, while head coach Greg Kampe was voted as the Summit League Coach of the Year. The Golden Grizzlies captured the regular-season title with a new league record in wins (17-1) and winning percentage (.944).
Joining Benson on the all-league first team was senior point guard Johnathon Jones. Senior forward Derick Nelson earned all-league second-team accolades, while junior transfer Larry Wright was named to the All-Newcomer Team.
Benson, a 6-foot-11 center from Farmington Hills, led the league in blocks (102), rebounds (311) and double-doubles (16). He led the Golden Grizzlies with 17.4 points per game and broke his own single-season school record in blocks, also setting a new record in defensive rebounds (217).
Jones broke the league record with 796 career assists and ranks third in the nation at 6.5 assists per game. He is averaging 12.7 ppg and ranks third in the league with 59 steals.
Wright, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, is also averaging double figures for Oakland at 10.8 ppg. His .923 free-throw percentage currently ranks first in school history and would be second-best in league history. Wright has made 31 consecutive free throws heading into the tournament.
Oakland opens play as the No. 1 seed at the Summit League Tournament Saturday against Missouri-Kansas City at 7 p.m.
(Oakland Press file photo/VAUGHN GURGANIAN)

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Grizzlies get verbal commitment from East Lansing guard Zakiya Minifee

The Lansing State Journal is reporting that East Lansing senior Zakiya Minifee has verbally committed to play at Oakland next year.
Minifee, a 5-foot-10 forward, made the decision in late February, after making an official visit to Oakland, the paper said.
Minifee was a teammate of current Oakland starter Victoria Lipscomb at East Lansing HS.

Beckie Francis' Oakland University women's team peaking at the right time

As you may have seen from the men's practice yesterday, the women's team did the same. Beckie Francis and the Golden Grizzlies (17-12, 14-4) are again the No. 2 seed when they begin play in Saturday's quarterfinal at 3:30 p.m. against Western Illinois (10-19, 17-11).
"It's tournament time. Our team is peaking at the right time. We have a lot of experience and our senior leadership is incredible," Francis said.



The Grizzlies defeated the Leathernecks handily in both regular-season meetings this season.
Oakland has won the tournament twice, most recently in 2006, when it entered as the sixth-seeded team.
The Grizzlies are after their fourth postseason bid in five seasons. They went to the NCAA tournament in 2006, which they could do again with another tournament championship, and they visited the WNIT last season, as well as 2007.
Oakland is a consistent top-three team at the tournament, having begun the championships in one of those spots nine of the 11 seasons in Division I play. The Grizzlies have been to the championship game three of the past four seasons, losing to South Dakota State in its first year of tournament eligibility.
After a 2-9 start to the season, the women have won 15 of their final 18 regular-season games, finishing one game behind Summit regular-season champion Oral Roberts.
"At the start of the season, we were still getting used to each other. We were trying to figure out how to play together. Right now, we are really playing well. Like coach said, we are ready for the tournament," senior Melissa Jeltema said.
Once the league season began in earnest, the Golden Grizzlies took off, winning five of their first six and finished the season on a six-game winning streak.
"In the early season, when we were going through those tough losses, it really helped to pull us together," senior forward Hanna Reising said. "As the season has gone on, we are starting to know and accepting our roles. We love playing together and are having so much fun; we are really looking forward to this weekend."

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Golden Grizzlies postseason media day

As Oakland (23-8, 17-1) prepares to enter the Summit League Tournament for the first time as a No. 1 seed, the Golden Grizzlies opened practice to the media Tuesday for a question-and-answer session. Senior forward Derick Nelson talked about how difficult it was to watch his team from the bench last season, while fellow senior Johnathon Jones talked about the possibility of a day of rest with a quarterfinal win Saturday. Kampe also noted with great emphasis Jones' contributions to the team.



The Grizzlies face UMKC Saturday at 7 p.m. in Sioux Falls, S.D. The game will be carried locally on FSN Detroit and WDFN-AM (1130).
Oakland has won seven straight over the Kangaroos, including a regular-season sweep this season.
The Grizzlies lost in the championship game last season on a last-second shot and haven't won it since 2005. A tournament championship would fall in line with the regular-season title the Grizzlies secured with a game left in the regular season.
Oakland won a school-record 10 road games this season, going 8-1 in league play, but Kampe noted Tuesday that the tournament isn't really a road game, unless you're playing South Dakota State, which would happen if both teams advance to the semifinals (a very likely scenario).
The Grizzlies are No. 8 in the latest in the Mid-Major poll and have won 24 of their last 25 conference games.

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Oakland freshman Bethany Watterworth claims final Summit League Player of the Week honor

From staff reports
After dropping a career-high 32 points in an 82-68 win over IPFW on Saturday and helping Oakland secure the No. 2 seed at The Summit League Tournament, freshman Bethany Watterworth has earned the final Summit League Player of the Week award for this season.
The freshman’s 32 points helped the Golden Grizzlies outscore the Mastodons’ bench 50-11 in the game. Watterworth shot 60 percent (12 of 20) from the field and 70 percent (7 of 10) from the free-throw line, while connecting on 1 of 2 3-point attempts. The Lake Orion native also grabbed three rebounds, dished out two assists and recorded a block, while committing only one turnover in the victory.
Watterworth’s performance also marked the first time since 2008 that an Oakland player has scored 30 points in a game. Teammate Hanna Reising was the last to do this, having scored 32 against South Dakota State in an overtime showdown on Feb. 2, 2008.
The Golden Grizzlies will face Western Illinois Saturday at 3:30 in the Summit Tournament quarterfinals in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Oakland University women find out tournament opponent

The Oakland women will be the No. 2 seed heading into this weekend's Summit League Tournament, facing Western Illinois Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST. The Grizzlies beat the Leathernecks soundly each time the teams met this season.
The Grizzlies last won the tournament in 2006 as sixth seed, their lowest seed ever, and advanced to the NCAA tournament. They are seeking their fourth postseason berth in five years.
Redshirt senior point guard Riikka Terava is the last remaining player from the NCAA team.
Last season, the Grizzlies fell in the finals to South Dakota State. The Grizzlies then went on to the WNIT.
Oakland has been a top-three seed in the tournament nine times in 11 seasons of Division I play.
Oakland was picked to finish second this season in the preseason league poll after a second-place finish in the regular season and in the tournament last season.

Oakland University's Keith Benson earns final Summit League Player of the Week honor of regular season

From staff reports
Oakland University junior center Keith Benson was tabbed Summit League Player of the Week for the fifth time this season.
Benson (Birmingham Detroit Country Day), a native of Farmington Hills, led the Golden Grizzlies to an 86-83 win over IPFW Saturday night inside the Athletics Center O’Rena. A 6-foot-11 center, Benson scored a career-high 32 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots before fouling out with just under three minutes left in the game.
On the season, Benson has blocked a single-season school record 102 shots and ranks eighth nationally in that department. He has moved into second all-time in league history with 229 blocked shots and leads the league with 16 double-doubles this season.