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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 27, 2012

Oakland finally begins conference play

After 13 non-conference games featuring wins over two accredited mid-majors in Valparaiso and Eastern Michigan, Oakland finally begins Summit League play Thursday at Western Illinois. 
The Golden Grizzlies, who are one of two teams yet to dip their feet in the Summit League play, start with four of their first five conference games on the road. That stretch includes stops in Macomb, Ill., where Oakland has won 11 straight, as well as South Dakota State (Jan. 10) and North Dakota State (Jan. 12).
“Everyone is talking about the non-conference schedule, but one of the reasons we did it was the conference schedule is top-loaded,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “We play the best teams on the road right out of the gate. We could be completely out of the league race for the regular season in the third week of the season, or we could be sitting really good.”
After losses against fellow mid-majors Ohio and Western Michigan, Oakland was 2-1 last week with the aforementioned wins over Valpo and Eastern Michigan, and held a late lead at West Virginia.
“We’re 5-8. We probably should 7-6, so I’m disappointed in that, but what’s happened has helped forge the team and gotten us better,” Kampe said. “(Saturday’s 59-57 win at Eastern Michigan) was an example of it. We had the adversity again, and we found a way to win.”
Oakland shot just 32 percent in the win over the Eagles, who previously stymied Purdue at the Convocation Center. Kampe was confident the Grizzlies’ shooting fortunes will turn around. Saturday, they shot below 40 percent for the fifth time this season.
“Now we begin league play where everybody uses the same ball and we’re used to the gyms and hopefully you’ll see us improve,” he said.
Kampe suggests Western Illinois (8-3, 2-0), which features sixth-year senior Ceola Clark, may have just struck the tip of the iceberg in its run to the Summit League final last season.
“They’ve proven they have a very good team and they made a run to the tournament finals last year,” he said. “I’m sure that motivated their players to have a great offseason. We know what we’re up against.”
Thursday’s game tips off at 8 p.m. and can be heard on WDFN-AM (1130).

Free throw woe
Oakland continues to get to the free-throw line more than its opponents, but the Grizzlies also continue to leave points off the board. They shot a season-low 58 percent (18 of 31) at Eastern Michigan, but Kampe is confident his team will rebound.
“You can practice stuff all you want, but you can’t simulate the game and the pressure,” he said. “I’m not a big a believer in situational practice.
“You toughen your kids and teach them to believe in themselves.”
Travis Bader and Ryan Bass were a combined 10 for 10 from the line, while Corey Petros’ 3-of-8 performance stood out for the wrong reasons. Also, frontcourt mate Raphael Carter was just 2 of 5.
Late gift for fans
After playing just three home games in the season’s first two months combined, Oakland fans will be spoiled with a season-high five games at the O’rena in the month of January. The first comes Jan. 3, when conference newcomer Omaha visits.
February will feature the biggest matchups, however, as North Dakota State (Feb. 7) and South Dakota State (Feb. 9) visit, as well as Oakland’s matchup in the ill-fated ESPN Bracketbusters series Feb. 23.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ryan Bass living up to Vinnie Johnson comparison by Oakland coach Greg Kampe



Oakland junior guard Ryan Bass had nine points in Saturday’s win at Eastern Michigan, including the Golden Grizzlies’ final four points. He won the game with his pull-up jump shot with 0.9 seconds to play.
“He made those free throws and then he hit that shot, he wasn’t afraid to take it,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “We need production out of him.”
Bass had showed no hesitation in taking the shot and didn’t doubt it once it left his hands.
“Once I saw there was five seconds left, I made up my mind to take the shot,” he said.
Kampe has compared Bass to former Pistons Bad Boy Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, for his quick bursts of scoring. Johnson famously hit the series-winning shot for the Pistons in the 1990 NBA Finals with 0.7 seconds left on the clock. Bass took a history lesson in the offseason.
“I watched a lot of film on him this summer to see what things of his game I can incorporate,” Bass said. “He knows how to get low and get around defenders and pull up for the nice 15 or 17-foot jump shot.”
Bass could also be seen diving for multiple loose balls Saturday, including one instance where he left the court entirely, skidding on the paved cement surface at Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center.
“That’s what my game is built for,” he said. “A lot of guys build their games off flash. We have a tradition here at Oakland. You have to work hard and put your nose on the line.”

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins sharing Greg Kampe’s scheduling philosophy

Bob Huggins: A man of comfort
If you watched Wednesday’s ESPNU broadcast of the Oakland-West Virginia tilt, you may have seen a graphic that referenced the Mountaineers’ 31,000-mile season itinerary. The figure, actually 31,128 miles, is not unlike that of Oakland, which rolled over the 10,000-mile mark prior to the Nov. 26 game against Tennessee.
“He didn’t steal anything from me,” Kampe joked about longtime colleague and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “He probably thought he had a young team this year and he’s trying to toughen them up. I’m sure this is probably not what their normal schedule looks like.”
The Mountaineers logged nearly 5,000 miles in a trip to Gonzaga (which Oakland plays next season, Kampe recently revealed), but have logged decidedly fewer miles than the Golden Grizzlies so far this season.  
At just over 7,500 miles, the Mountaineers don’t have another trip scheduled until Jan. 5.
One place Huggins’ teams (Cincinnati and West Virginia) have never traveled is the O’rena, but Kampe is OK with that. He said Huggins has, since Oakland moved to Division I, always been interested in hosting the Golden Grizzlies.
“He’s never said no,” Kampe said. “And there’s a lot of people that would. We have a friendship through that.”
Kampe and Huggins also share similar mindsets on wardrobe philosophy. Huggins ditched his sport coat at halftime Wednesday, opting for the more comfortable WVU pullover. Kampe said he would have made a similar change if he knew the option was available.
“If I had known he was going to lose the coat at the half, I would have done it, too,” Kampe joked.

Darth Bader steals the show
The talk of the ESPNU broadcast was Oakland’s Travis Bader, who led all scorers with 25 points on 6-of-12 3-point shooting.
The broadcast was very Oakland heavy, much more than a typical national broadcast of an Oakland game. Kampe credited Oakland’s past successes and even holding a late lead at Pittsburgh as the impetus, adding that Bader deserves all the attention he gets.
Bader still leads the nation with 48 3-pointers made. He has made six or more 3s in four games this season.
Early in the non-conference schedule, Kampe was frustrated with the tactics teams were taking to hold Bader in check. He said the long-distance prodigy has adjusted to the increased attention paid to him by defenders.
“He’s used to taking hits and coming off screens,” Kampe said. “He gets it every night.”
Duke Mondy near triple-double
Guard Duke Mondy filled up the stat sheet Wednesday at West Virginia, scoring 10 points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.
Since being moved off the ball seven games ago, shooting guard Duke Mondy has made great strides with ball control. He has 36 assists to 16 turnovers in that stretch, but his five turnovers at West Virginia were not easily overlooked by his coach.
“He has to learn to let the offense take over,” Kampe said of Mondy during a nearly four-minute stretch in the second half where the Grizzlies were forced to sit Bader after he picked up his fourth foul.

Monday, December 17, 2012

O'rena crowd serves as sixth man in win over Valparaiso

Oakland has been looking for a reliable sixth man off the bench, and while Matt Poches continues to makes strides, the O’rena crowd took on that duty Monday. The 2,065 fans who turned out during winter break, when the Golden Grizzlies traditionally struggle to draw fans, helped give them the confidence to pull out another narrow victory over long-time rival 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.”
Breaking Broekhoff
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.”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Live chat with Oakland coach Greg Kampe

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Postgame video from Oakland women's loss vs. Michigan State


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Not your father's Rochester College welcoming Oakland back to O'rena

Drew Maynard will be back in the O'rena
After a close loss to Western Michigan, Oakland coach Greg Kampe waxed nostalgic about cross-town “rival” Rochester College, saying the Warriors always play up for Oakland and this year’s squad is one of the best they’ve ever had.
The NAIA Warriors held a late lead over Kent State earlier this season, before notching their first win over a Division I team against Eastern Illinois Nov. 21. Now, they welcome Oakland back from a month-long, seven-game road trip Thursday at the O'rena.
Rochester has never beaten Oakland in 14 previous tries. The Warriors did take Oakland to overtime Feb. 17, 1997, a game Oakland won by just four points in the closest outing in the teams’ history.
The Golden Grizzlies have won the past five meetings by an average of 23.4 points. That number is skewed by an 11-point differential last season.
The Warriors also have former Oakland freshman phenom Drew Maynard (Lake Orion), who transferred to Rochester from Division II Valdosta (Ga.) State over the summer. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound, athletic forward is spending his final year of eligibility with a landmark Warriors team after leaving Oakland two years ago.
It’s safe to say there will be quite a bit more interest in this Oakland-Rochester meeting than many of the previous.

Cinderella lineage?
At 2-5 (now 2-6), Oakland is off to its worst start since an 0-7 beginning to 2004-05. The Grizzlies upset their way through the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament as a the seventh seed, earning their first NCAA tournament berth.
That season’s first seven games were as follows: At Xavier, at No. 5 Illinois; Marquette; at Texas A&M; at Missouri; at Kansas State; at St. Louis. Several of those seven losses were by 10 points or fewer, save for the blowout visiting the Illini. Sound familiar?
Kampe stopped short of calling that season’s schedule “stupid,” however, as he’s said of this year’s slate.
“That schedule was horrible. There were seven road games to start the season and they were all big names,” he said. “That was a tough, tough schedule.”
Oakland finished the regular season 13-19 with a 7-9 league record before that fateful conference tournament.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Greg Kampe shares rigorous scheduling philosophy well known to fans

Oakland coach Greg Kampe shared his daring "schedule-up" philosophy in a recent guest column for CollegeInsider.com. The grueling ideology is nothing new to fans, who, after a record 18 home games in 2011-12, are waiting through the first of two extensive road trips for the Grizzlies' second home game of this season, Dec. 6 against Rochester College.
CollegeInsider.com, publisher of the weekly Mid-Major Top 25 poll, heavily covers mid-major college hoops, even sponsoring a postseason tournament of the same name, which Oakland has participated in twice in the past  four seasons.
As it pertains to recruits, playing a formidable slate helps Kampe and his staff to promise potential players they can play at the nation's most hallowed arenas with mid-major Oakland. 
"Players want to compete against big time opponents," Kampe wrote. "When we are recruiting kids we can point to the fact that annually we schedule games against the likes of Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, UCLA and Michigan State. In some cases we are fortunate enough to have a program like Tennessee come to Oakland to play (two for one), but more often than not we are playing these teams exclusively on their home courts. But that gives our players the opportunity to play in places like Allen Fieldhouse, Pauley Pavilion and Rupp Arena."
The Grizzlies played No. 1-ranked teams at UCLA and Kansas in the past, but no matchup with Kentucky has surfaced to date. He again mentions the hypothetical meeting:
"We certainly don’t go into games waving the white flag of surrender, but playing Kentucky in Rupp is certainly not a 50-50 game."
Oakland's aggressive scheduling intensified in the Keith Benson years, which ultimately may have led to the a lesser regular-season record for the Golden Grizzlies, but very nearly resulted in three straight conference tournament titles and NCAA tournament berths.
"The bottom line for us is that we have to win the Summit League tournament in order to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament so our non-conference win-loss record is irrelevant in the big picture.
"If I scheduled differently we may have another 15-20 wins." 
The longtime coach also divulged one of the Grizzlies' secrets to Summit League success in recent years -- chartered flights. While other teams are shuffling through cramped Midwestern airports flying commercial, Kampe and his team are on their way home as soon as possible.
"We bring in a lot of money, playing BCS schools on the road and that affords us the opportunity to charter to all road games. If we play a game on Saturday night in the Dakotas we are home in our beds before sunrise.
"Being able to charter rather than fly commercial has really helped us within our own conference over the past few years."
Oakland surpassed the 10,000-mile mark on this trip BEFORE Monday's game at Tennessee. They play seven of eight on the road after a Dec.17 date with Valparaiso at the O'rena. That trip includes stops at West Virginia (Dec. 19) and Alabama (Jan. 5).