O'rena crowd serves as sixth man in win over Valparaiso
After a 25-10 run gave the Crusaders a five point lead with 7:10 remaining, Oakland outscored them, 16-9, including 11-0 in the game’s final 4:51 to pull out the much-needed victory
“We looked tired when they made their run and the crowd energized us and gave us a chance to win,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said.
Forward Corey Petros soaked up the team’s nine days of rest at home following a month-long, seven-game road trip and felt energized by the crowd, which was as loud as it was when Tennessee visited last November.
“The last minute or two, it was crazy and it felt like we were playing a big Summit League game like South Dakota State,” he said. “It was just nice to be at home playing a good game against a good team.”
“Being at home and being able to practice at home every day is crucial. Shooting on our own rims and playing here is nice.”
The much-needed victory came after Oakland lost four games after holding a second-half lead, including the infamous 18-point cushion at Pitt as well as a four-point loss at Western Michigan and what had been a close game at Ohio.
“To lose games the way we were losing them,” Kampe said.: “Now, we turn around and we get one of those. Hopefully, that gets us going. If you’re going to be great, you’ve got to win on the road.”
And the Golden Grizzlies, who have already played eight games on the road, get seven more attempts to get a second road win beginning Wednesday at West Virginia.
In the zone
Oakland went on a 10-2 run to open the second half before Valparaiso made a serious adjustment. The Crusaders switched to a zone defense, which Oakland hadn’t played against all season, and it paid early dividends. Eventually, the Grizzlies cracked the code.
“Because of the way we score, teams don’t usually want to zone us because we shoot the ball so well,” Kampe said. “It was a brilliant move by (Valparaiso coach) Bryce (Drew). They were struggling to guard our half-court sets. We came out in the second half and we got whatever we wanted with our sets. He went to the zone and we acted like we had never seen it because we hadn’t. We don’t practice it. Eastern Michigan is going to do it Saturday.
“Our kids really figured it out, though. We got a lot of wide-open looks, we just didn’t make them.
“We figured it out and down the stretch, we got a lot of easy baskets in the last four minutes. It was the exact same defense where we looked like we were struggling.”
Oakland’s shut-down defender Drew Valentine put the clamps on defending Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff, who had just two of his 10 points in the second half Monday.
“He’s the guy,” Kampe said. “All of his points were tough.”
Valentine didn’t practice all week and had to have a pain-relieving shot in his knee during the team’s nine days off.
“(Valentine) was there for every minute of practice and was screaming and yelling at the team and he showed up tonight.”
To the Summit
Along Oakland’s next road trip, the Golden Grizzlies kick off Summit League play, first against Western Illinois Dec. 27. They then hit IUPUI Dec. 29 before a brief stop at home to welcome Omaha to the conference Jan. 3. After a quick non-conference game at Alabama Jan. 5, it’s off to the Dakotas Jan. 10-12.
“Our Summit League schedule begins with four road games against three of the top teams in the league.That’s not good,” Kampe said. “That’s one of the reasons we did what we did with the (non-conference) schedule, thinking we have to be ready. We could be out of it by the 15th of January and just playing for a (conference tournament) seed or we could be in really good shape with eight of 12 at home and probably being the favorite in all 12 having played the top four on the road.
Oakland returns home from the trip Jan. 17 with four consecutive home league games against Kansas City, South Dakota, IUPUI and Western Illinois.
“The schedule was put towards that,” Kampe said. “If it doesn’t work, I’m an idiot. If it does, then everyone will forget I even had that schedule and just talk about how great our players are and that’s the way it should be.”