Category Archives: Oakland University

Grizzlies can’t catch up to Texas in NCAA Tournament loss

By Jake Thielen
Posted: Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Last Updated: Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Photo – Kevin Romanchik/The Oakland Post

TULSA, Okla. — It seemed so close. After trailing for much of the game, and by as much as 17 in the second half, a three-pointer by senior guard Larry Wright brought No. 13 seed Oakland University within just five points of No. 4 Texas with 1:22 remaining in the game.

However, it was not to be as another captivating season for the Grizzlies came to a disappointing end Friday afternoon as the Longhorns held on for an 85-81 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Grizzlies had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but junior guard Reggie Hamilton’s three-point attempt with 47 seconds left rattled in and out, allowing Texas to put the game out of reach at the foul line.

“All throughout the game you’ve got to have the confidence that every shot’s going in,” Hamilton said. “That’s how the ball rolls sometimes. Unfortunately, that ball rimmed out.”

Oakland coach Greg Kampe was particularly disappointed because he felt this team had a chance to make a postseason run.

“This is a team that I thought could get to the Sweet 16,” Kampe said. “Our league’s gotten so much better. Our league’s good and people don’t know it. The way they’re going to find out is if a team like Oakland goes and wins in the Tournament. That’s where the disappointment comes from.”

Kampe said he was still surprised that Oakland drew the Longhorns for its opening game.

“We just got a bad draw,” Kampe said. “We play everybody in the country. I know who is good and who isn’t — and that Texas team is as good as anybody. Texas can win the National
Championship.”

Kampe said Texas’ defense and ability to bother Oakland’s shooters was the difference in the game.

“If you would have told me that we were going to hold them to 85 points and we’d have 17 offensive rebounds and they’d have 15, I would tell you that we were going to win,” Kampe said. “We just didn’t make shots, and I think we might not have made shots because of their defense. Every shot we took was contested.”

The Grizzlies took an early 7-4 lead, but Texas went on a 6-0 run and never relinquished the lead. Oakland trailed 46-38 at halftime, and saw that deficit climb to double-digits early in the second half.

“Texas is a tough, great team,” Hamilton said. “It all started in the first half. You know you make runs, everyone’s going to make their run. Unfortunately, our run came too late.”

Hamilton led Oakland with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting, but he was just 2-of-9 from 3-point range. The Grizzlies shot only 24.1 percent as a team from beyond the arc.

“We had two or three go in and come out, but (Texas) really contested the three, and they can do that because if you get by them they can block shots, similar to at our level how we contest teams in our league,” Kampe said. “If they get by us, (Keith) Benson’s there to block shots.”

In what turned out to be his final collegiate game, Benson scored 15 points and had 11 rebounds, his 20th double-double of the season.

Benson finishes his career as the Summit League’s all-time leading shot blocker with 371, and he ranks second all-time in rebounds.

Benson was matched up with the Longhorns’ dynamic freshman center, Tristan Thompson, for most of the game.

“(Thompson) has long arms and he goes hard to the offensive boards, so as a team we really had to focus on him a lot,” Benson said. “He had some good shot blocking skills, so I just tried to battle with him and keep him off the boards.”

Senior forward Will Hudson had a double-double of his own with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Wright added eight points.

Kampe said saying goodbye to Benson and the other seniors will be difficult.

“Our university owes (the seniors) a great debt,” Kampe said. “I’m so fortunate to have coached them.

“To see a kid like Benson come through, and when David Stern yells his name with the whatever pick in the first round, I’m going to be the happiest Oakland University employee in America because these guys have done great things for our university.”

The loss dropped Oakland to 1-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, and 0-3 in its last three tournament games.

“Last year I was upset about the way we finished against Pitt, and I watch coaches at these things and how they look like they’re going to cry and all that,” Kampe said. “It’s a tough business, but I’m going to tell you something. I love this basketball team. It was a great year for Oakland University, just a great year. So I guess I’m going to cry too, because I hate that it’s over.”

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Oakland women lose to IPFW, fall to third place in Summit League

By Jake Thielen
Posted: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Last Updated: Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Photo – Bob Knoska/The Oakland Post

With second place in the Summit League standings on the line, the Oakland University women’s basketball team lost its shooting touch at the worst possible time.

The Grizzlies (16-9, 10-4) fell behind early and never recovered as they fell to IPFW, 70-55, Saturday afternoon.

Oakland shot just 31 percent from the field in the first half and shot just over 34 percent for the game, while the Mastodons (17-6, 11-3) seemingly couldn’t miss. IPFW shot 54 percent from the field, including 8-of-17 from three-point range.

“They shot a great percentage and we couldn’t get stops,” Oakland coach Beckie Francis said. “We’re a great defensive team, so I give them a lot of credit.”

Francis said that the Mastodons’ experience, and the Grizzlies’ lack of it, was a major factor in the game’s final outcome.

“IPFW is a really good team — it’s a veteran team,” Francis said. “They have five starters back, and they were fired up to try to get a win on our court.”

“That’s an experienced team, and we’re a younger team. We sometimes have three freshmen on the floor, and it takes a while for a team to get confidence if you don’t hit a couple shots.”

Sophomore forward Bethany Watterworth scored 17 points for Oakland, while freshman guard Zakiya Minifee added eight points and eight rebounds.

Watterworth said the key for the Grizzlies moving forward is  simply to get their confidence back.

“We’re a great team, and we got a big weekend next weekend with the Dakotas coming in,” Watterworth said. “We just need to get after it in practice and work on the little things defensively.”

Senior guard Jordan Zuppe led the way for the Mastodons with 23 points, including 6-of-8 from three-point range, while junior forward Stephanie Rosado added 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

Watterworth often drew the tough task of guarding Rosado in the low post.

“(Rosado) had a good game, and their team just hit shots,” Watterworth said. “They shot over 50 percent for the game, so it’s tough to win when the other team is making half their shots.”

Despite falling into third place in the Summit League, Francis said she wasn’t concerned.

“We’re just going to improve and win games one by one,” Francis said. “We don’t care who we play. (We play) Saturday and next Monday, then we get our seed,  then we win three in a row and that’s our goal. When we’ve gone to the NCAA Tournament we’ve been a (No.) 3 seed and a (No.) 6 seed and we’ve still been in the tournament.”

The Grizzlies’ next game will be Saturday, Feb. 19, at home against South Dakota State University.

Oakland’s lesser-known Div. III club hockey team aims for postseason run

By Jake Thielen
Posted: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Last Updated: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Photo – Jake Thielen/The Oakland Post

What many students may not know is that Oakland University has not one, but two winning hockey teams.

The university’s Division I team has gained the most notoriety, winning a national championship as recently as 2007. This year, the lesser-known Grizzlies’ Division III club team is looking to achieve similar success as a member of the Michigan Collegiate Hockey Conference’s Blue Division, which is a part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

However, in order to reach that success the team must first overcome an obstacle that doesn’t affect major sports at OU, such as basketball.

Hockey’s status as a club sport at Oakland means that much of the financial burden is carried by the players themselves.

Second-year coach Troy Barron said the fact that hockey is not a scholarship sport at Oakland can make recruiting difficult at times. While other colleges can afford to buy their players equipment, Oakland simply offers a good education and a competitive team.

“We are not the Yankees where kids get paid in scholarships,” Barron said. “These guys work jobs, they go to school full-time and they pay for their own hockey. It’s like playing travel hockey — you’re paying $300-$400 a month.”

Despite potential financial and recruiting difficulties, Barron has managed to put together a solid program.

Game day

The team entered Friday night’s showdown against Michigan State University at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills with a record of 16-7, which was good for seventh place in the most recent ACHA North Division rankings. The Grizzlies had defeated Michigan State 5-2 on the road in their last game on Jan. 23.

Early on, it looked like Oakland would repeat its previous success against the Spartans. The team came out looking to dominate the game physically in the first period, and that’s exactly what happened.

Barron said setting the tone early with physical play is part of the team’s game plan.

“I think the whole reason for being physical is to get somebody off their game,” Barron said. “You don’t want to be dirty, but you want to force (the other team) up the boards and counter-attack it. The whole thing about being physical is getting them off the puck. If they don’t have the puck on their stick, they can’t do anything.”

The team’s physical play helped create several early scoring chances. After a Michigan State penalty, sophomore forward Derek Sulpizio put home a rebound in front of the net that gave the Grizzlies a 1-0 lead just five minutes into the game.

Michigan State tied the game in the second period, but Oakland team captain Zach Warson put the Grizzlies in front again with a redirection goal with eight minutes left in the third period.

Despite several late penalties, it appeared Oakland would be able to hold on for a victory. However, Michigan State’s Joe Kulczycki scored with just 1.3 seconds left in the game to force overtime.

“I didn’t even know there was that much time left; I was just playing,” senior goaltender Steve Henzie said. “After they scored, I looked up and saw 1.3. It was just like a backbreaker. It was tough to get out of my head.”

Michigan State went on to win the game in a shootout.

“With one second left, you think you have it,” Sulpizio said. “You’re that close, and then they get a lucky goal bounce off the back of the boards. It’s a tough loss, but we’ll come back hard next week.”

Looking ahead

Oakland will look to rebound in its next game against the University of Michigan-Flint Feb. 11, and cap off the season with a trip to the ACHA National Tournament.

“The first goal that everybody set was going to nationals,” Henzie said. “I don’t know if we’re saying winning, but we definitely want to get there, and we’ll take it from there.”

A 6-3 loss to Davenport University in the ACHA regionals kept the Grizzlies from qualifying for the National Tournament last year. Henzie said avenging that loss was a motivating factor entering this season.

“The other number one thing that we set out to do was to beat Davenport, which we did,” Henzie said. “We lost to them in the first game that we played them (Nov. 5), and we won the second game at their ice (Nov. 7). That was one of the big goals, so we accomplished that.”

The ACHA Regional Tournament is scheduled to begin Feb. 18 at the Suburban Ice Arena in Macomb. Barron said he expects the Grizzlies to be seeded in the middle of the pack, but he still has high expectations for his team.

“At this level, any level, it’s who wants it more,” Barron said. “Anybody can win on any given night. If the guys want it, they can play the best, and they can beat the best. It’s not up to the coaching staff; it’s what they want to do.”

If Oakland advances from the Regional Tournament, they would play in the National Tournament in Holland beginning  March 9.

“We won our first game, and we were a period away from going last year,” Barron said. “Hopefully, if the puck bounces right, we’ll be able to be there (this year).”

A jump to the next level

By Jake Thielen
Posted: Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Last Updated: Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Photos – Bob Knoska/The Oakland Post

On March 20, 2010, Malika Glover and Zakiya Minifee celebrated East Lansing High School’s 65-54 victory in the Class A state championship. Just 10 months later, the two high school teammates are in search of a different kind of championship — a Summit League championship as members of the Oakland University basketball team.

Despite being freshmen, Glover and Minifee are both key contributors to an Oakland team that is currently tied for second place in the conference race.

Glover is averaging 5.8 points per game for the season, but has doubled that average since she moved into the starting lineup on Jan. 8 against Western Illinois.

Meanwhile, Minifee is averaging 7.8 points per game and is second on the team with 6.4 rebounds per game. She began the season in the starting lineup, and has since become a fixture of the starting five. Minifee said stepping into the starting lineup was difficult at first, but her teammates helped ease the transition.

“Coach (Beckie) Francis kind of surprised me for our first game telling me that I was starting,” Minifee said. “The first couple games were really nerve-wracking, trying to make sure I didn’t mess up, where I was fitting in, that type of thing, but the team made it really smooth. They never made me feel like I was out of place in any way, so it just was like playing basketball all over again.”

Glover also credited her teammates for helping her make the jump to the starting lineup.

“I was starting to feel a lot better about the way I was playing, so it was pretty comfortable coming in,” Glover said. “The team’s really helpful with making you feel like you belong there.”

Francis said she has been impressed with the poise shown by the two freshman and their ability to contribute from day one.

“It shows a lot of mental toughness,” Francis said. “It shows maturity, but I think it (also) shows hard work on their part and good attitudes.”

Rob Smith, who coached Minifee and Glover in high school, said he’s not surprised that either of them are off to such a productive start in college.

“Malika played like ‘Miss Basketball’ throughout the state tournament,” Smith said. “She did a lot in terms of transition, running the offense and shooting. She became a passionate leader for our team.

“Zakiya rebounded like no one I’ve ever seen for her size,” Smith said. “We called her ‘The Beast.’ She’s one of the most intelligent players I’ve ever coached.”

Smith said the two had great chemistry during their time at East Lansing.

“They played together ever since middle school and they were on the same AAU team,” Smith said. “They had a real good feel for what they were going to do, and they had a really good idea of what we wanted to do in our system. They were good at bringing younger kids into the mix and maturing into leadership roles.”

It’s possible that the Grizzlies’ starting lineup could have featured three players from East Lansing High School, if it were not for an injury.

Sophomore guard Victoria Lipscomb started 23 games for Oakland last season, but has been limited to just three games this season due to a long-term knee injury suffered in November.

Glover and Minifee said Lipscomb was instrumental in helping them choose to attend OU.

“Victoria is a year older than us, and she’s from East Lansing too,” Minifee said. “She talked about how much she loved it and how well the team got along, so it just made it more comfortable to know someone also at the same time.”

Once Minifee signed with OU, Glover quickly followed suit, largely for a chance to reunite with her teammate.

“I knew Victoria had (committed) here, and then (Zakiya) committed,” Glover said. “I really liked the environment and everything like that, so I just decided to join them.”

Francis said she hopes to continue building a good relationship with the East Lansing program to hopefully land more recruits in the future.

“I really like their program, and it’s kind of obvious that it’s a good program because of the fact that they won the Class A state championship,” Francis said. “It really helps also because I think Rob Smith is a really great coach and very similar in style (to us), so the learning curve is reduced when I sign East Lansing players. That’s why Victoria could start last year, and that’s why Zakiya and Malika could step right in because they’re just so well-coached.”

Smith said he has worked with Oakland during recruiting for the last four years.

“We feel like they’re in a great place (at Oakland),” Smith said. “Whatever they learn here, Beckie can take them to the next level. I’ve heard nothing but good things from parents, not just about basketball, but about academics and the school as

Grizzlies defeat Cornell as Watterworth scores 16 points

By Jake Thielen
Posted: Monday, November 29th, 2010 at 9:09 am | Last Updated: Monday, November 29th, 2010 at 9:14 am

Sophomore forward Bethany Watterworth had 16 points and 10 rebounds, for her second straight double-double, as Oakland University defeated Cornell, 56-45, Sunday afternoon.

Watterworth had 22 points and 10 rebounds in Oakland’s 86-40 win against Rochester College on Nov. 22.
Watterworth said the win was a result of a great effort by the whole team.

“We were very unselfish with the ball, and everyone was involved,” Watterworth said. “A lot of people were scoring and everyone was really doing their part tonight.”

Junior center Brittany Carnago had 10 points, five blocks and four rebounds for Oakland, while freshman guard Elizabeth Hamlet had seven points in her first career start.

Oakland coach Beckie Francis said Carnago’s shot blocking early on was crucial.

“Blocking those five shots really set the tone for us defensively, to give us that nice comfortable lead in the first half, which we needed in the second half,” Francis said.

Oakland got off to a quick start, with an 11-0 run following Cornell’s basket to open the game. The Grizzlies led by as much as 17 in the first half, and entered the halftime with a 31-17 advantage on the scoreboard.

Cornell rallied to begin the second half, cutting its deficit to just four points, but that was as close as the Big Red would come.

Hamlet’s 3-pointer with 3:41 left in the game stretched the Grizzlies’ lead back up to 13, and they held on for the win.

“What we like about Hamlet is she’s really a smart player,” Francis said. “She played with Bethany Watterworth and Brittany Carnago in AAU for years, and those three work well together.”

Francis credited the team’s discipline on defense as the reason why Oakland survived the Big Red’s comeback bid.

“That’s what I was really proud of, is that they played smart defense,” Francis said. “We had that lead, and we wanted to keep that clock going. It’s just discipline. It’s just mental toughness that they showed.”

Carnago said one of the team’s goals on defense was to stay out of foul trouble and not go for too many steals to avoid reach-in calls.

Oakland shot 75 percent from the free throw line (15-20), while Cornell did not attempt a free throw in the entire game.

Watterworth said free throw shooting is one of the four key factors that the Grizzlies focus on for each game.

“We look at how many free throws they shoot and how many we make, and that’s just awesome that they didn’t even shoot a free throw and we got to the line (often),” Watterworth said.

Francis said the team will need to cut down on its turnovers if it hopes to continue its success. Oakland came into the game averaging 17 turnovers per game, and it had 23 against Cornell.

Oakland will begin Summit League play with its next game on Dec. 2, at home against Southern Utah. The Grizzlies will follow up with two more home games against UMKC and Illinois.

Francis said the five-game home stand is an opportunity for the Grizzlies to build some momentum.

“We’re really excited about the first conference game on Thursday, which is a doubleheader with the men,” Francis said. “We’re looking to take this confidence and roll it into the next game.”