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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.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coach Kampe at the Pig Out Palace

Centenary highlights

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A break on the horizon for Grizzlies

After playing four games in six days, Oakland coach Greg Kampe fully acknowledged his team was getting tired. After Thursday's game against Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla., the Grizzlies will finally get a full reprieve: They play just three games in the following 14 days.
"We’re going to give it our all tomorrow and then we realize the schedule’s really in our favor after that," Kampe said. "We don’t play again for seven days. In the next 14 days, we only play three games. We’re going to have time to rest and get healthy and start practicing again."
The Ohio State game last week was originally scheduled to take place in January during Oakland's down time, but had to be moved up to accommodate the Buckeyes' home arena schedule.
Oakland stole a victory at the Mabee Center last year, the Golden Grizzlies' first in a few years.
“We’ve won the regular-season championship twice and we’ve won at Oral Roberts twice — those same two years," Kampe said.
The Golden Eagles lost to IPFW Tuesday in their first home game in more than a month. It was just the Mastodons' second win in series history and first in Tulsa.
“This is a huge game for us, (but) more of a big game for Oral Roberts after they stumbled last night. I don’t think they’ve lost two home games in a row in probably seven or eight years. It’ll be a war tomorrow night. It’s two rivals going after each other," Kampe said.
The Golden Grizzlies maintain +6.2 rebounding advantage, having outrebounded No. 2 Ohio State, 43-41. Damen Bell-Holter is Oral Roberts' leading rebounder, averaging 7.2 per game. As expected, center Keith Benson leads the Grizzlies' efforts with 10.3 per game.
“We’ve got to defend and rebound. Those are our staples,” Kampe said. “Oral Roberts has good post players. They rebound the ball really well. ... We have to stop (Dominique) Morrison and (Warren) Niles. We know what those two guys can do."
Morrison (17.4 ppg) and Niles (12.6) are the Golden Eagles' leading scorers this season.
The game tips off at 8:05 p.m. and can be heard on WDFN-AM (1130) and seen on Fox College Sports.
Preview story from Golden Grizzlies Gameplan

Transfer separates lifelong teammates Maynard, Cushingberry

Oakland teammates Drew Maynard and Blake Cushingberry had grown close. Not just because they were on the same college team — they had played together since the fifth grade with three different teams through the AAU ranks and were rival prep stars.
With Maynard's impending transfer, the two will be apart for the first time in more than a decade. The team announced his intention to leave Wednesday afternoon.
"When we were growing up, our dads always said we were that package deal," Cushingberry said. "We went everywhere together. A lot of the schools that recruited us offered us scholarships together."
Maynard was a standout at Lake Orion, where he was an Oakland County Dream Team pick three times. Cushingberry came from Romeo and was also one of the top players in that year's recruiting class. They ended up on the same team, in a recruiting class that heaped attention on the program.
“It’s going to be really weird playing without him," Maynard said. "Ever since we were little, we always saw each other on the court every once in a while.
“We’re still going to be friends and we wish the best for each other."
The AAU teammates eventually met as high school rivals in the 2008 state playoffs. Cushingberry was first to commit to Oakland, when Maynard called him out of the blue to tell him the news he'd also be joining the Golden Grizzlies.
"It'll be a change, I know that," Cushingberry said. "He and I weren't really on the court at the same time (at Oakland), but it was knowing we were always together on the same team."
Cushingberry is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL. He's started light jogging and hopes to return to practice by the end of the season.
"It's coming along real fast," he said. "I'm just looking forward to getting back into the facilities with (trainer Tom) Ford."
Cushingberry will get a medical redshirt this year and joked his jump shot will be even better when he returns from the sidelines.

Kito back to normal?

Coach Greg Kampe said Keith Benson looked like he was at 100 percent health in last night's 28-point, nine-rebound, seven-block effort against Centenary.
“He just couldn’t jump. He couldn’t move on that ankle. (With) the time off after Christmas, I know he felt better," Kampe said.
Benson injured his ankle in the second half of the upset over Tennessee, returning from the trainer's room after missing four minutes of game action. Kampe said immediately after the Ohio State game last Thursday Benson had been playing hurt since the program's biggest victory, leading to some of his weakest stat lines of the season.
“I was not going to play him against Ohio State. He wanted to so bad that we played him just because he’s a senior and this is it for him," Kampe said. “We scheduled that game for him.”
Benson wasn't the only one who needed a rest, as the Grizzlies were playing their fourth game in six nights at Columbus, Ohio.
“We were just tired. We were slow and tired," Kampe said. "It was a four-point game with a minute to go in the first half. I took Benson and Hudson out because they had two fouls each. It went from four to nine in one minute. Then we tried to chase and catch up and we couldn’t. Once we got behind, we were done. Our minds wanted to do it, but our bodies wouldn’t let us."
The Buckeyes were the fifth ranked team Oakland has faced this season and very likely the last until a potential return trip to the NCAA tournament.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Live chat vs. Ohio State

Join beat writer Paul Kampe for a live chat Thursday at 8 p.m., as Oakland travels to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the No. 2 Buckeyes. Watch the game on the Big Ten Network and bring your thoughts to the chat. The game is also being broadcast on WDFN-AM (1130).

PLAYING CATCH-UP: Fatigue coming into play for Grizzlies
Defense fails Grizzlies in shootout loss to Valpo
Oakland becomes the hunted

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fatigue hitting Grizzlies

About to play its fifth game in the past nine days, Oakland coach Greg Kampe is justifiably worried about fatigue prior to the conference season.
Thursday’s tip against No. 2 Ohio State is Oakland’s fifth game against a ranked team. It was originally planned for January during the bye portion of Oakland’s schedule. Due to a scheduling conflict at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, the game was moved to late December.
“I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t want to lose the game — $100,000 and Kito playing against (Jared) Sullinger,” Kampe said. “So I said ‘OK.’ At that time, I didn’t know how dead we’d be. ... This was done in September. I didn’t realize that we could turn out to be at the level we are this early.”
The game vs. the Buckeyes is also Oakland's fifth and final game against the Big Ten this season.
“I haven’t worried about that like I am right now. I’m worried about being tired mentally because of who we play and having to get up and get ready for those types of games," Kampe said.
Following an excruciating 103-102 loss to Valparaiso Tuesday, the Grizzlies are lamenting a porous defense that allowed a 63-percent shooting night from the Crusaders, who are usually in the 45-percent neighborhood.
“If we don’t defend against Ohio State, they might get 150,” Kampe said.
"We came out lackadaisical, but it's fatigue. We've got to find a way to survive the fatigue tomorrow and get our rest we're going to get over the break."
The Grizzlies regroup the day after Christmas before shipping out to Shreveport, La., to face Division III-bound Centenary. Kampe seemed confident his team should be able to recuperate on five-days' rest.
The Crusaders were the latest opponent to put immense pressure on Keith Benson, who was limited to just 23 minutes because of foul trouble in his lowest-scoring game of the season.
“I hope they take the Valpo approach,” Kampe said. “Keith Benson scored five and we had 102. We have to stop the other team. They didn’t win because of their gameplan or their approach. They won because they scored 103 points.
“Their defense on Benson didn’t have anything to do with them winning that game. What they did offensively and how they tore us apart ... it was the defensive side of the ball for Oakland.
"If they wants to gimmick against us, go ahead. I don't care if Kito scores. We're going to score points."

For more, read a preview from Golden Grizzlies Gameplan

Oakland becomes the hunted

The hunter (Oakland) became the hunted against Valparaiso Tuesday at the O’rena. The Crusaders had a hard time ... missing. They hit nine of their first 13 from the floor, finishing at 63 percent shooting (36 of 57), with TWO of their players eclipsing the 30-point mark for the first time this season against the Grizzlies.
Cory Johnson had 33 points on 12-of-13 shooting and Brandon Wood (12 of 20) had 35, as the Crusaders did everything right, similar to the performance the Grizzlies had in an upset over Tennessee last week.
“You go and you beat the No. 7 team in the country and people will want to beat you,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “And they wanted to beat us. There’s no fear for them. They’re supposed to lose. They’re going to come in here and play with confidence. They did (that) and we stood around the first seven minutes of the game and let them shoot. Our defense was non-existent. And there were times in the second half where it was (like that), too.”
Kampe reiterated multiple times that the Grizzlies didn’t defend well, or at all, at times during Tuesday’s 103-102 shootout loss.
“(I said) keep the ball out of their hands,” the coach said. “Every time the ball left (Johnson’s) hand, it went in. Twelve of 13 from the floor. What do you have to do to keep the ball out of his hands? We’re not a team that double-(teams). We’ve got a shot-blocker. (But) he wasn’t in there a lot in the second half. ... We don’t want to be a team that doubles and gives up a lot of open looks. We want to be able to defend.”
Valpo, a former Mid-Continent conference rival of Oakland that left for the Horizon League four years ago, will be on the schedule the next two seasons.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Grizzlies needed to win at Michigan

So, Oakland has a huge momentum boost beating No. 7 Tennessee. Then the Vols go and lose to UNC-Charlotte three days later (Friday). Then, the Golden Grizzlies lay a holiday egg inside Crisler Arena, shooting a season-low 30 percent in an 18-point loss to the unranked Wolverines.
Remember that close game at then-No. 16 Illinois almost two weeks ago, the one where they played with a women's ball for seven minutes? After the U-M debacle for Oakland, the Illini went out and lose Saturday evening. Can a solid Oakland performance hold up already?! Does that mean Purdue, whom Oakland played tight, even leading at the half, is this next big-time opponent to fall?
Oakland needed to win that game at Crisler Arena to validate the win over Tennessee and this definitely was their best chance in recent memory to break a four-game losing streak to Michigan. More so, the lasting effects of becoming statistically the second-best team in the state, having lost by just one to Michigan State and then beating the Wolverines a week later, would help them gain notoriety with recruits. Coach Greg Kampe mentions the recruiting wars constantly and there's no doubt that was running through his mind at some point Saturday.
It appears the talk of the Grizzlies as the state's second-best team was premature. There's not much they can in conference to prove otherwise. They needed to win Saturday's head-to-head meeting and they shot exceptionally poor.
Oakland's RPI went all the way down to 50 from nearly 100 after beating the Vols, who had the nation's best RPI by virtue of a win over then-No. 3 Pittsburgh. With a bad-looking loss to the Wolverines, coupled with losses by Tennessee and Illinois, Oakland's RPI will dive, too.
Well, there's always Thursday's game against No. 2 Ohio State down in Columbus, Ohio. Another shocker in the Buckeye state could help breathe life back into the notion Oakland is this state's second-best team.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recent highlights

Check out the best Oakland plays from the Michigan State game and Tennessee upset.


Live chat at Michigan

Join beat writer Paul Kampe and Ross Maghielse for a live chat, as Oakland travels to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan Saturday at noon.


SOME LIGHT READING: Oakland coach Greg Kampe on upset: ‘We belong’


Time for Oakland to get back to Grizzness against Michigan


Grizzlies get along without Benson for short period in upset



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grizzlies get along without Benson for short period in upset

Oakland center Keith Benson left Tuesday's game against No.7 Tennessee with 10:33 to play after tweaking his ankle, which is OK, according to the team. He didn't return until the 7:56 mark, when Oakland was still in the game. Coach Greg Kampe heaped praise on reserve big man Ilija Milutinovic, who played five minutes, scoring four points.
“All I really know is that Ilija was unbelievable. (He) was just phenomenal. He played great," Kampe said.
Kampe was aware what could be about to happen as Benson left the court.
“I couldn’t believe (it). Here we were again. It was a two-point game and now he goes down. My thought process was ‘I hope he’s not going to be out Saturday. I wasn’t even thinking he’d come back for this game."
The Grizzlies face in-state foe Michigan at Crisler Arena Saturday in a game that could serve as a nice follow-up win to Tuesday's upset, or a reality check for the national darlings.
Benson left with the Grizzlies trailing, 64-62. They were down seven upon his return. Less than three minutes later, the score was tied. Benson's return eventual sparked a 13-0 Oakland run.
“The big thing tonight was that we made the free throws. It started out with not being able to match their runs at Purdue and Illinois. At Michigan State, we answered the run, but we missed free throws. Tonight, we answered their run, made our own (runs) and made our free throws and got a bunch of stops down the stretch," Kampe said.
“When you’re a top team in the country and you’re at home, and somebody like Oakland is beating you, those shots become harder to make. Because we were missing free throws, Michigan State didn’t have to do that. Once we got ahead, they didn’t score again."
The Grizzlies outscored Tennessee, 50-32, in the second half Tuesday, the Golden Grizzlies' biggest half since the blowout win over Southern at the Chicago Invitational Challenge.

Greg Kampe on SportsCenter after upset of No. 7 Tennessee

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More Greg Kampe postgame thoughts

MSU game preview roundup

Golden Grizzlies Gameplan
Key Personnel Match-Up
Reggie Hamilton vs. Kalin Lucas
"Not only is it the second straight game against a Big Ten team, but it's also the second straight game against an All-American caliber point guard. Kalin Lucas has had a few strong games this year, but as Andy Katz pointed out earlier this week, he still hasn't regained his explosiveness after injuring his Achilles last March."
Lansing State Journal
"It's exciting to have the opportunity to play at the Palace," Bader said. "I can't really go into this game thinking, 'Oh my God, I've watched this team all my life.' "
FSN Detroit
"(Tom) Izzo has a history of getting results when he pushes buttons like he's pushing right now. His team better have done some serious soul-searching, that's for sure, because Oakland has Cinderella-like potential."
"With its defensive tenacity and hard work on the glass, Oakland resembles a typical Michigan State team. Oakland ranks among the top-30 teams nationally in rebounding margin (plus 8.2)."

Friday, December 10, 2010

MSU preview Coach's Corner

Highlights from Illinois

Live blog from The Palace

Join me and fellow beat writer Ross Maghielse for an in-game chat from the Oakland-MSU game at The Palace Saturday. Tune in to FSN Detroit and join the chat!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Game ball flap roundup

Here's a recap of the AP game story from the men's game at Illinois Wednesday. Hear Greg Kampe's interview with WDFN radio here.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — From his first shot, Demetri McCamey knew something was wrong. The ball just didn't feel right.

Turns out the ball was an undersized women's ball, something the officials finally fixed after seven minutes of No. 16 Illinois' 74-63 victory over Oakland on Wednesday night.

"After my first shot I thought, 'This can't be right,'" McCamey, who finished with 30 points, said about the women's ball making it into the game.

The first seven-plus minutes were played with the size 6 ball. McCamey noticed the odd ball early but couldn't convince the officials. Illini center Mike Tisdale finally did.

"I've coached 33 years and that's a first," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said.

Play quickly restarted with a size 7 men's ball - about an inch larger and 2 ounces heavier - but neither team's shooting immediately improved.

(Several outlets followed up on the story. Thanks to Golden Grizzlies Gameplan for helping the roundup.)

ESPN

Mid-Majority

Rush the Court

Ballin' is a Habit

Jeff Goodman

Sporting News

Beyond the Arc

Rivals.com

Right ball makes a difference for Illinois

Big Ten Rant Illinois

Replaying the women's upset win over Illinois

If you were patiently waiting for the men's tipoff following the women's game on Twitter, here's a replay of the game in descending order.

Dec 08, 8:39pm via HootSuite

Illinois' heave banks and rims out, Oakland pulls upset, 62-61, at the O'Rena. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:34pm via HootSuite

Questions regarding the proper amount of time remaining holding up play @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:33pm via HootSuite

Watterworth misses circus shot, gets own rebound, putback good with 1.4 as shot clock expired. 62-61 Oakland leads with 1.4 to play in OT.

Dec 08, 8:32pm via HootSuite

Patritto stuck with the ball, Oakland WBB calls timeout, down by 1 with 9.3 seconds to play. Only 6 on the shot clock @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:30pm via HootSuite

Penn has been their go-to all night, had 24 points and 12 rebounds

Dec 08, 8:30pm via HootSuite

Illinois' leading scorer Karisma Penn, fouled out. Should help OU makes stops @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:28pm via HootSuite

Oakland WBB keeps shooting itself in the foot. Making turnovers after big plays. 61-60 Illinois lead with 1:15 to play. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:23pm via HootSuite

Illinois had largest lead, 4, since midway 2nd half, Watterworth FTs cut it to two points, 59-57, with 3:30 to play in OT @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:19pm via HootSuite

Illinois WBB can't get a shot off before time expires, going to OT at O'Rena for second time this season against the #BigTen @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:17pm via HootSuite

Costly Oakland turnover gives Illinois ball back with 5.6 secs. left. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:16pm via HootSuite

Then Minifee picks up huge board off missed Illini 3, and Oakland WBB calls timeout with 24.7 to play, still tied. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 8:15pm via HootSuite

Last minute here, Zakiya Minifee hits lay-in with full extension to tie it, surprise!, 55-55, with 58.4 secs. to go.

Dec 08, 8:05pm via HootSuite

Bodies hitting the floor en masse, Illinois leads Oakland WBB, 52-50, with 4:17 to play. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 7:58pm via HootSuite

We're tied for the 12th time tonight, as Illinois heads back to the line for the lead. 46-46 with 7:25 to play. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 7:53pm via HootSuite

Oakland players Maynard and Cushingberry, not traveling for different reasons, scoped Oakland WBB before tip of men's game. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 7:52pm via HootSuite

Oakland WBB hanging tough with Illinois, trail 44-42 with 9:28 to go. Watterworth leads all scorers with 16 pts. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 7:47pm via HootSuite

Illinois back in front by four, 42-38, with 12:32 to play @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 7:40pm via HootSuite

Watterworth buries 3-pter, OU gets ball back on foul and Watterworth drives and hits the AND ONE, OU leads 37-36. 15:30 to go @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 7:33pm via HootSuite

Illinois uses 5-0 run to open 2nd half. Illini lead, 34-29, with 18:32 to play. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 7:15pm via HootSuite

Illinois' Macie Blinn hits falling-down 3 at first half horn and we're tied again, 29-29, at the break. OU has forced 17 Illinois turnovers.

Dec 08, 7:08pm via HootSuite

Good Oakland WBB D has forced 12 Illinois turnovers. Game tied 4 times with 7 lead changes, but OU leads 25-24, with 3:46 till half.

Dec 08, 6:58pm via HootSuite

Watterworth 3-pointer puts Oakland WBB up one, then Illinois comes back. Familiar? Illini lead, 21-20, with 7:34 till halftime. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 6:52pm via HootSuite

Carnago 3-pointer put Oakland WBB up by two, but Illini rush back, lead 17-15 with 10:32 till half @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 6:48pm via HootSuite

Brittney Nelson 3-pointer has Oakland WBB within one, 11-10, with 13:14 till half. @OUGrizzlies OU has hit last four shots on 9-3 run

Dec 08, 6:42pm via HootSuite

#Illinois out to 8-1 lead, Oakland WBB 0-5 from the floor, 5 turnovers. 15:47 to play in first. @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 6:34pm via HootSuite

Oakland WBB starting five: Hamlet, Carnago, Patritto, Calhoun, Watterworth @OUGrizzlies

Dec 08, 6:31pm via HootSuite

About ready to go here at the O'Rena. Oakland WBB riding a four-game win streak, welcome #Illinois as men visit the Illini. @OUGrizzlies

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kampe: 'No one has impacted Oakland basketball like Keith Benson'

Oakland coach Greg Kampe took a minute at the end of Saturday's press conference to say he was "disappointed" in the turnout for a blowout win over UMKC.
“I do want to say that I’m a little disappointed in the crowd tonight,” Kampe said. “I don’t know if we’re ever going to have another Keith Benson and he’s only got about nine more home games left here. This is a good basketball team and that kid is a great player and we may never see something like this again here. So I would hope more people will come out and enjoy it.”
The Grizzlies' crowd saw nearly 500 more patrons Saturday than for Thursday's conference and home opener against Southern Utah, with 2,505 as the listed attendance.
Kampe further clarified his comments Monday on WXOU:
“I wasn’t criticizing the attendance, especially the students. They’re fantastic. We’ve got the Grizz Gang at over 1,000 strong and we’ve got to be in the top 25 in the country in student attendance. We’re not at the same level as Duke, but we’re making our way," he said.
“My issue is … there hasn’t been a player that has impacted basketball at Oakland like Keith Benson has. His record proves it. …You have a chance, for a cheap price to sit no higher than 14 rows from the action to see a kid of that talent. This is a really good team. You can get in for $7 to see that brand of basketball, I’m shocked it’s not sold out."
The coach also mentioned a "person in the know" told him if Benson keeps his play consistent with what he's done thus far, he could be a top-five pick in the NBA draft.
(Why Benson won't get ALL the recognition he deserves from his own league)
Kampe was more optimistic about the attendance for conference games further down the road.
"I’m getting spoiled. The last half of the season last year, we were turning people away," Kampe said. "With the home-court advantage we have, we’ve won 23 straight league games at home, 15 consecutive home games and 30 of our last 31 home games, people are getting value for their money. For their entertainment dollar, it’s the cheapest one and we’re winning.
“It’s great basketball. I was a little bit shocked. I was expected a little over 3,000.”

An audience of that size in the O'Rena would be a capacity crowd.
Saturday's tip with Michigan State at The Palace is a perfect opportunity for fans to get out and see Benson, the nation's No. 5 center according to Rivals.com.
Benson is currently ranked in the top five in three NCAA categories: third in double-doubles (six), fifth in rebounds per game (12.3) and fifth in blocked shots per game (3.6). Benson is also the team's leading scorer, averaging 19.1 points per game.
Saturday's performance (20/10) was Benson's fourth straight double-double and sixth of the season, leading the conference in the superlative category. He was last week's conference player of the week and the reigning conference player of the year. He was picked to repeat that honor in the Summit League's preseason poll.

Brutal stretch before 'real' conference season

As everyone has noticed, the hardest part of Oakland's regular season begins tonight at Assembly Hall against No. 16 Illinois. Saturday, the Grizzlies have their annual tilt with Michigan State, this one at The Palace of Auburn Hills against the No. 7 Spartans. Next week, it's a trip to face No. 11 Tennessee in the first game of a three-year deal with the Volunteers. The Grizzlies come back to play Michigan in Ann Arbor before hosting the Lou Henson Tournament.
Coach Greg Kampe is looking for his team to be relaxed in the fire, because the upcoming gauntlet has no bearing on their conference record.
“What we talked to them about was that this is their chance to have some fun," he said. "The next four games aren’t going to have anything to do with our season. If we were somehow able to win a couple of those games, then it would have something to do with (it). But if we lose those games, it’s not going to make or break our team. They came to Oakland because they know they’ll play this schedule, so let’s go out and have some fun. Let’s compete and prove to some people that we belong. Let’s really get out there and we’ve got a chance to put the Oakland name out across the nation. Let’s see what we can do and let’s just have some fun.”


Despite the matchups with highly-touted teams like then-No. 14 Purdue, Final Four team West Virginia and MAC tourney champion Ohio, Oakland's RPI fell from 90 going into the Summit conference openers last weekend, to 102 on the eve of the Illinois game.
Kampe pointed out during his show on WXOU Monday, the Illini, whose RPI stands at 29, already knocked off North Carolina this season.
“I don’t worry about what the score is," he said. "We’re going to go in there and compete. We’re looking forward to playing it. I don’t know what the final score is going to be, but we’re going to bust our tail and we’re going to play. We’re really looking forward to the game at The Palace and we’re really looking forward to going to Michigan."
Kampe said if the Grizzlies can stick to their strengths, there may be a shot an upset in Champaign, Ill. That of course has been the Grizzlies' FG percentage defense, which is around 40 percent. The Illini are shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor, while Oakland is nearly +8 on the boards, led by Keith Benson's 12.3 boards per.
“Their strength is shooting the basketball. Ours is stopping (teams) from shooting it," Kampe said. "They’re not a great rebounding team as big as they are. They only have a plus-1 rebounding margin. Most of their games have been cupcakes. To only have a plus-1 rebound margin shows me (that with) our strength being rebounding, we have a chance going in there. If we can keep them missing shots and we keep getting the rebound, we’re going to have a chance.
The Illini, however, are shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range, while, as we're all aware, Oakland is allowing 37 percent shooting from deep.
It'll be interesting to see if Oakland can give the Illini, Spartans, Wolverines and Vols the same run or more than they showed Purdue.

Related: Game preview from Golden Grizzlies Gameplan
Live blog from FightingIllini.com
Also: Illini's Tisdale throwing opponent fans into a tizzy

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

UMKC follow-up Grizz Talk

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hamilton adjusting to role without the rock

Reggie Hamilton's first season with the Golden Grizzlies was supposed to also be his first at the point guard position. That idea was nixed before the season even started. He seems to have adjusted quite well to moving without the ball, becoming one of the team's best shooters from the field and coming through in crunch time.
"All summer, I had the ball in my hands 90 percent of the time," Hamilton said last week. "So, it's kind of hard running down the court without the ball, (but) I'm getting used to it."
Hamilton led all scorers with 23 points, shooting 8 for 14 in the Grizzlies' conference season opener Thursday against Southern Utah.
"I've always been a scorer, but it's gotten better this year," he said. "I've been more efficient, and my confidence hasn't even been at its highest level yet. That year off (due to NCAA transfer rules) might have done the job."
Coach Greg Kampe acknowledged that Hamilton, the team leader in turnovers (31), will be needed for his scoring.
"I can play Reggie (at point guard), but I want (him) scoring," Kampe said last week. "We need Reggie to score for us to be successful. I want him off the ball. He wants to go get the ball and I get mad at him when he does that, (but) I want him to shoot the ball. I don't want him to be a distributor. It'll work it's way out."
It certainly worked against Hamilton's former team, UMKC, Saturday night, when he scored 16 points in the 99-62 rout.
"He handled it with class," Kampe said on WXOU Monday. "It would be easy to run your mouth and lip off and gloat, and he didn't."
Hamilton is the team's second-leading scorer (behind center Keith Benson) out of conference (14.7 ppg) and tied with Benson at 19.5 ppg in league play. Also, in those two games of conference play, Hamilton is averaging the same amount of turnovers per game (about 4), but his scoring and shooting percentage have remained strong (60 percent). So what's a coach to do?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Highlights from SUU victory

Thursday, December 2, 2010

More Summit opener prep

SUU preview from Thursday's Oakland Press:
By PAUL KAMPE

Of The Oakland Press

ROCHESTER — Although they didn't tour after having a dominant season in the Summit League in 2009-10, the Oakland men's team has been living like rock stars so far this season — from the traveling aspect, that is.

The Golden Grizzlies open the conference season today (Thursday) in their home opener against Southern Utah at 7 p.m. after spending the first three weeks and six games on the road against some of the country's renowned teams, Oakland (3-3) begins its defense of the Summit crown.

“I'm excited about (playing at home) and I'm sure our players are,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “We've created such a great atmosphere here at the O'Rena over the last few years that we just have this Superman feeling when we come out here. We believe that we can play with anyone at any time in this building.”

The early tests included stops at Final Four contender West Virginia and at then-No. 14 Purdue, as well as a win over Mid-American Conference tournament champion Ohio, which upset Georgetown in last year's NCAA tournament.

Kampe said the first two home games of the season vs. the Thunderbirds and UMKC might be the two most important games of the year for Oakland, which has three matches against Big Ten opponents and upper-tier Summit teams still to play.

“You start your league at home and you have two games,” he said. “You have to win those games.”

“Southern Utah is an interesting team. They're a team that can beat us. … If we don't play our best, it could be a long, embarrassing night.”

The coach, in his 27th year, added he's not worried about his team suffering from complacency today (Thursday).

The banner recognizing the Grizzlies' accomplishments last season — a 17-1 conference season, conference tournament championship and an NCAA tournament appearance — have been snug against the ceiling of the O'Rena since the summer. There's no more time to think about what happened last year.

“We'll honor that team maybe in 10 or 15 years,” Kampe said. “They did their job and got to cut down the nets … if we ever win the NCAA championship, we might do some sort of (celebration). We're focused on this year. I don't want our players thinking about last year.”

The Grizzlies are returning from suburban Chicago, where they won their bracket of the Chicago Invitational Challenge. They most recently defeated Austin Peay State in overtime. The game was the last in an eight-day roadtrip, which Kampe says was a recipe for disaster.

“We played well enough to be in the game,” he said. “Reggie Hamilton made some shots for us early to keep us around and then Keith Benson just took over. (Benson) had an unbelievable stat line.”

Benson, the Grizzlies' 6-foot-11 senior center, is an NBA prospect. He finished the game with 22 points, 22 rebounds, six blocks and seven steals Saturday, good enough to earn him Summit League Player of the Week honors.

The Grizzlies have struggled to find consistency at the point guard position following the graduation of four-year starter Johnathon Jones, who now plays professionally in Europe.

“It's going to get better. It's not something you can just turn it over and say 'Here it is,' ” Kampe said.

“It'll work it's way out. Am I worried about it? No. But do I realize it's a liability right now? Yes. We're going to get better at it. We can't turn the ball over 18 times a game and win a championship. But we'll get there.”

Another concern has been the Grizzlies' defense against the 3-point shot. Opponents are averaging 38 percent shooting from long range against Oakland. Kampe recognized the criticism that figure draws to his team, but clarified the numbers could be misleading. Chief among his reasons is strength of schedule.

“We haven't been playing 'Little Sisters of the Poor.' These are some pretty good teams,” Kampe said.

The Grizzlies' defense is predicated around Benson, mid-major player of the year, who Kampe likes having near the basket to gobble up rebounds, as he's been known to do with much success. As a team, Oakland is averaging six more rebounds than opponents thus far.

“We're going to give up some 3s, that's just the way it is,” Kampe said, noting the team's current field-goal defense is 41 percent, which would be the best in program history. “That's our dilemma, we chose to play this way and if that (defensive) field-goal percentage is there at the end of the season, we'll hang another banner.”

Oakland recently slid two spots to No. 14 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll after a loss to Wright State. The Grizzlies rebounded with a blowout win over Southern and Saturday's overtime affair against the Governors.

Forward Will Hudson has been scoring at a higher clip than usual, recently achieving his first career double-double. He's averaging 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and attributes the uptick to his summer workouts and playing alongside Benson.

“A lot of it is offseason training and working around the basket and around the outside and understanding the game a little bit more,” he said. “When (Benson) draws double-teams, I have to find the open spot. It's just finding the gaps in the defense and being available.”

Junior guard Reggie Hamilton gets to play his first game against the Kangaroos Saturday after transferring from UMKC and sitting out last year.

“I expect them to come out and compete and try to get a win,” Hamilton said. “I know they'd love to beat me on my home court.”

“I know we have that big target on our back, so we just have to go into every game with that swagger, knowing these teams want to beat us.”

Oakland recently reinstated junior guard Drew Maynard on a practice basis, but it's unclear when he will rejoin the team in full. Maynard was suspended indefinitely in mid October, just days before the season was to officially begin.

The Thunderbirds (2-4) hold a 13-12 series advantage over Oakland, but the Grizzlies have won the past three meetings.

“We struggle with Southern Utah historically,” Kampe said. “Last year, we did very well against them. That doesn't happen very often.”

Oakland beat Southern Utah, 99-53, at the O’Rena last season.

The Oakland women's team (3-3) also opens conference play against Southern Utah (2-4) at 4:30 p.m. today (Thursday). The Grizzlies have won two straight after defeating Cornell at home Sunday. They finished second in the regular season last year, but were knocked out in the first round of the conference tournament.

“We've had two great practices and we're on a two-game win streak at home and we feel prepared,” Oakland women coach Beckie Francis said.

Although her team seems to be handling the ball well, Francis thinks they can get even better.

“Every Division I team in America is having turnover problems,” Francis said. “We're in the top 50 in assist-to-turnover ratio, in a good way. I'm being critical, but I want to take care of the ball better and I want to rebound better.”

The women are undefeated, 12-0, against the Thunderbirds at the O’Rena.

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grizz Talk: Summit season primer