THE MAGIC OF MARCH
By Greg Kampe
Two months have passed since the excitement surrounding
Oaklandís first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. But while
the days have turned to weeks and the weather has gotten
warmer, the excitement of the Big Dance is still fresh in
the minds of everyone.
I cannot begin to express my gratitude and thanks to all of
the people that took time to email their thoughts, in the
aftermath of our win over Oral Roberts in the Mid-Continent
Conference Championship game. It would be an understatement
to say that I was overwhelmed with the response. Over a
ten-day period I think I may have received an email from
every single Oakland fans and alumnus, not too mention the
countless basketball fans that wanted to share their
It was truly unreal, as was the entire experience of the
It began shortly after our win over Oral Roberts and
continued for nearly two weeks. I knew that the media blitz
was going to be intense, but I had no idea as to the
magnitude of it all. For about two weeks, the idea of ďfree
timeĒ simply didnít exist.
But that is what March is all about.
Once again I would like to thank every fan and every member
of the media that took the time to bring attention to
Climbing the Mountain
By Greg Kampe
couple of days ago, Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Bruce Pearl
wrote a very insightful column (collegeinsider.com). He
wrote that in order to win you first have to be able to
dream. How true. However, with all the attention focused on
our basketball team, I havenít had much time to dream
because I havenít had much time to sleep.
When we defeated Oral Roberts, to capture to the
Mid-Continent Conference championship and the automatic bid
to the NCAA tournament, I knew full well that the media
blitz would begin. But I had no idea of the level that it
To state that it has been overwhelming would not begin to
truly encapsulate the last seven-to-ten days. It has been
non-stop, but nobody is complaining. Everyone is awe.
One week after beating a very good ORU team, to earn a trip
to the dance, we defeated another very good basketball team
in Alabama A&M. Vann Pettaway did an outstanding job this
season and we knew that it was going to be a hard-fought
I am so proud of the way we played. It was certainly one of
our best overall efforts of the season. It took us a little
time to adjust to the speed of the game. Alabama A&Mís plays
at a different speed, something we had not seen much this
season, but something that we will certainly see on Friday
We settled in and found our rhythm, after that first ten
minutes. I thought we did a very nice job of controlling the
tempo over the course of the final thirty minutes. And our
reward for winning on Tuesday night is a date with North
Carolina on Friday afternoon. And when you talk about
passion and tradition, it doesnít get any bigger than
In his column, Bruce wrote about climbing that steep
mountain and not necessarily having the same climbing gear
as Alabama, but still intent on making the climb. The
incline in our path is straight up into the clouds.
The North Carolina basketball program is very accustom to
the high-altitude atmosphere of college basketball. Their
base camp has been nestled at the foot of the summit for
decades and they have the climbing equipment to face any
challenge. Our camp is somewhat off the main path to the top
and our climbing gear was purchased from eBay.
Our programs are worlds apart, but for forty minutes on
Friday we meet on the same court with one shot at conquering
This entire experience has been unbelievable. A lot of
people believe that that the NCAA tournament should consist
of the ďbestĒ sixty-five teams and the Oaklands and Alabama
A&Ms of the world have no place in the elite field. I could
not disagree more.
As the tournament moves into the weekend and turns the
corner to the Sweet Sixteen, the vast majority of remaining
teams will come from college basketballís power conferences.
Most, if not all, the Cinderella teams will have returned to
campus to reflect on the season that was. But the opening
act of the big dance provides everyone with a chance to
dream and that is what makes the NCAA tournament so special.
Implausible, overwhelming, improbable, daunting and
impossible are all appropriate terms to describe the task in
front of us. But that doesnít mean that our kids donít
deserve the opportunity. Unlike other postseason gatherings,
the powers of college basketball provide the little guys
with one shot at playing the giants of the mountain.
Maybe our chances are minimal at best, but we are still
going to suit up and take the court on Friday afternoon. The
chance to face a program like North Carolina is what this
month is all about.
There is nothing like the madness of March.
A Perfect Performance
By Greg Kampe
I knew that
a lot of things had to happen for us to just be in a
position to win. We needed to execute our game plan and keep
our composure if we were going to be able to beat Oral
Roberts. And I knew that we would also need a little luck.
On Tuesday night it all came together for forty minutes.
Oral Roberts is a tremendous basketball team. Scott Sutton
and his staff have done a tremendous job this season. They
have proven that they can play with and beat high-level
programs. I knew that they were fully capable of blowing us
right off the floor. I really believe that ORU could win a
couple of games in the NCAA tournament.
They have been ranked among the top 15 in the
CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 all season. They have a
lot of talented players and -- more importantly -- they have
quality kids on their roster.
The Golden Eagles are very good in transition. When they get
their fast break going, they are very difficult to contend
with. It was essential for us to slow the pace and be very
patient in our half-court offense. I joked with a friend
before the game, telling him that we needed to take 34 Ĺ
seconds off the shot clock on every trip.
Our game plan was to slow the tempo and play good hard-nosed
defense. I felt if we could do both -- and make some shots
-- we would be able to stay close.
I am so proud of the way our kids performed. They did a
great job of staying composed every time it looked like ORU
was going to make a big run. Seemingly every time we had to
have a basket -- to slow their momentum -- we got one.
Rawle Marshall was named to CollegeInsider.comís Preseason
Mid-Major All-America team and he played like an
All-American on Tuesday. Cortney Scott made some big shots
and grabbed some crucial rebounds. He also had a great night
from the free-throw line. During the season he was shooting
around 50 or 60% from the line. Tuesday night he was 7-for-9
from the line. To do what we did, you need everyone to raise
their level of play and thatís what everyone did.
In addition to Rawle and Cortney, Brandon Cassise hit three
huge three-pointers. We also got great contributions from
DeMarcus Ishmeal, Austin Kralisz and Patrick McCloskey. And
I think that Pierre Dukesí game-winner will not soon be
forgotten by Golden Grizzly fans.
This group has been through a lot this season. We began the
season with seven losses and had to overcome some adversity
throughout the conference season. Down the stretch, we
really started to play much better basketball. Our seven-man
rotation had really come together and played as one. I felt
good about our team heading into the Mid-Con Tournament, but
I could have never imagined that it would play out like it
did. We needed a perfect performance and we got one.
I donít think itís a mystery that we will be playing on
Tuesday night in Dayton. With a 12-18 record we will most
certainly be a part of the play-in game. But right now, I
donít think that anyone is concerned about Tuesday.
We are going to enjoy this victory for a couple of days and
then begin practicing for our Tuesday-night opponent. I am
so happy for everyone associated with Oakland University.
This was a great win and one that will not soon be
forgotten. And it will not be forgotten by Scott Sutton and
The shame of it is that ORU is definitely a team that could
have made noise in the NCAA tournament. They are not just a
good team at the mid-major level. Oral Roberts is a great
team. Anyone who has seen them play this season can attest
to the fact that itís a team that can play with anyone in
The Mid-Con has never received an at-large bid to the NCAA
tournament and most of the so-called experts will tell you
that it wonít change this year. Unfortunately, most of those
so-called experts havenít seen ORU play on a regular basis.
If they had, they would be making a case for them to get an
Tulsa, Okla. (Mar. 8, 2005) Ė Oakland showed that dreams do
come true here tonight, as Pierre Dukes (Grand Blanc, Mich.)
hit a three-point shot from the corner with 1.7 seconds left
to lift the Golden Grizzlies to an upset 61-60 win over
top-seeded Oral Roberts in the championship game of the
Toshiba Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Championship.
The win gives Oakland its first Mid-Con Tournament title and
its first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Cortney Scott
(Lansing, Mich.) had 19 points to lead Oakland, while
Tournament MVP Rawle Marshall (Detroit, Mich.) had 18 points
for the Golden Grizzlies.
Both teams traded baskets in the early going and after five
minutes of play it was Oral Roberts that held a 6-4 lead. At
that point Oakland made its first move of the game, going on
a 7-0 run that put the Golden Grizzlies up 11-6 on jumper by
DeMarcus Ishmeal (Detroit, Mich.) at the 12:12 mark.
Oral Roberts recovered from the OU run quickly, answering
with a 5-0 spurt of it's own to take a 16-13 lead on a trey
from Andrew Meloy with 8:44 to play in the half. The Golden
Eagles held a 19-17 advantage two and a half minutes later
when they managed to open up a bit of a gap of their own.
ORU scored five straight, taking a 24-17 lead at the 3:51
mark on a lay-up by Ken Tutt.
Much like on Monday night against Chicago State, Brandon
Cassise (Walled Lake, Mich.) stepped up and hit a couple of
big three-point shots, with his second bringing Oakland back
to within a point at 26-25 with 1:29 left in the half. From
that point the two teams traded baskets and the Golden
Eagles held a slim 28-27 edge at the half. The shooting
numbers reflected the closeness of the contest, with each
team shooting at a 44 percent clip.
Oakland got things going on the right track to start the
second half, with Scott starting things out with a basket
and drawing a four, converting the three-point play that put
OU up 30-28. A Marshall basket pushed the lead to four
points and at the first media timeout with 15:58 left the
Golden Grizzlies held a 37-32 advantage.
Oakland kept plugging away and after an ORU basket got five
straight points, four on hoops by Marshall, to take their
largest lead of the game at 42-34. The Golden Eagles came
back with four straight points to cut the OU lead in half,
but Scott came up with a pair of free throws to halt that
ORU charge. ORU came right back with a trey from Tutt and a
basket by Caleb Green, but Oakland responded with a pair of
hoops from Marshall that put OU back up 48-43 with 7:40
Oral Roberts showed why they were the No. 1 seed of the
tournament and came back, riding the momentum of a loud home
town crowd of over 6,000, charged back into the lead when
Luke Spencer-Gardner nailed his first three-point shot of
the game with 5:20 left that made it 52-50 in favor of the
Golden Eagles. From there it was back-and-forth and Cassise
put OU back up by three with another trey with three minutes
left only to see Spencer-Gardner answer to tie the game once
again. With 2:20 left he hit a pair of free throws to put
ORU back up by two, a lead they would hold until the end.
After Scott cut the lead to one by hitting one of two free
throws with 1:56 showing, but neither team could find the
range for the final seconds, with ORU missing a pair of
threes and Oakland one shot of its own. Jonathon Bluitt hit
one of two free throws with 17 seconds left that put Oral
Roberts back up by a pair at 60-58.
With its one possession left, Dukes found himself in the
corner as time was expiring and launched a shot that will be
long remembered in Oakland basketball history.
Oakland will discover where it plays its first game this
Sunday when the NCAA announces the tournament bracket.
2005 Toshiba Mid-Continent Conference Menís Basketball
Caleb Green, Oral Roberts
Rawle Marshall, Oakland (MVP)
Andrew Meloy, Oral Roberts
Cortney Scott, Oakland
Ken Tutt, Oral Roberts.