I hadn't been home to Michigan in a little over three years. I felt a bit bad about it, but it wasn't as if my family didn't enjoy coming down to Myrtle Beach to visit instead. I asked my mom if she just wanted to buy me a ticket to come up for a Christmas as my present. While it wouldn't be over Christmas time she still thought it was a great idea.
Now most would want to drive home as soon as they flew in, but I looked over the basketball schedule and saw that Oakland University was hosting Rochester College a few hours after my plane was supposed to land. I knew I had to stop by the game if any of my flights weren't delayed. My parents understood, and were going to meet me for the game, but couldn't make it due to unforeseen circumstances.
My flight from Myrtle Beach to Detroit went as smooth as possible, considering I had a layover in New York (by the way, you suck LaGuardia for not having free wi-fi). I got my rental car and decided to take the more "scenic route" to Oakland. This led me through some of the depressing cities of Metro Detroit, such as Dearborn, Redford, and Pontiac. Many of the old buildings along Telegraph Road look like they haven't changed in 40 years. Adding to this somber area was a cold and grey day that is the usual for a Michigan winter.
I also quickly had to get back into my Michigan driving mentality. My friends say I drive very aggressively back down in South Carolina, but I just see it as the norm back up in Metro Detroit. If you don't get out of the way, people will try to run you off the road, and heaven help you if you are driving slow in the left lane. It took a few minutes to get back into the swing of things, but I pretty much had to since I was in the teeth of rush hour.
Oakland University was the closest school when I used to live here, but it was just in its infancy with D-1 right before I had left. I had only been to the campus a handful of time close to 10 years ago, so I had no real clue where the O'Rena was at. After following a few other cars driving around campus I was able to find a sign to point me in the right direction.
Once again, since it was holiday break I bought the cheapest ticket available and moved over closer to center court. I was glad to see that while not many of the students had stayed, the band, cheerleaders, and dance team stuck around. There was a good contingent from Rochester College there, as it is only 5 miles away.
Oakland is well-known for their murderous non-conference scheduling, and they continued things this year with seven games against teams above the Red Line. They were able to score a victory over Tennessee for the second year in a row earlier in the season. Facing an NAIA school after finals was a chance for coach Greg Kampe to play some of his younger guys.
The game had a very fun first half that was played at quick pace with multiple lead changes. Some of the less experienced players for Oakland were making some silly mistakes and keeping Rochester in the game.
I noticed the very energetic PA announcer was chatty, at times going over in-game promotions while play was still continuing on the court. There was also a fun game at one of the media timeouts where they attached two students to a long bungee and they had to compete for lay-ups on opposite sides of the court. Naturally, the heavier kid sent the skinnier kid flying backwards when he went for his first shot. This lead to a bit of assistance from the Grizz, OU's mascot, to even the odds. Clawzz, the other mascot, joined in for a pretty even tug of war.
Rochester was able to stay with Oakland for much of the game. This was due to a lot of factors including the Warriors hitting a lot of early 3-pointers. Also, Travis Bader, the team's second leading scorer, was having a horrible shooting night, going 1-for-12. As is the case with most non-D1 matchups, OU was finding success keeping up with the hot-shooting Warriors inside off post play and dribble-drives.
As the second half started, the rest of the Golden Grizzly team picked things up, with Bader still struggling. Michigan transfer Laval Lucas-Perry ended up with 23, and Drew Valentine ended up with a double-double of 20 points and 15 recounds and capped the game with a huge dunk, bringing the crowd to its feet as time wound down for a OU victory.
I was glad to finally be home and was on my way to my parents house when I was really reminded of where I was when I left the O'Rena. I was greeted with a blast of Arctic air, and when I started the car the Red Wings game was on. Its going to be a fun week back up in Michigan.
at OAKLAND 77, ROCHESTER 62 12/13/2011
OAKLAND 7-4 (2-0) -- D. Valentine 8-10 2-2 20; C. Petros 5-9 3-6 13; L. Lucas-Perry 9-17 4-4 23; T. Bader 1-12 0-0 2; R. Hamilton 3-11 7-8 14; M. Poches 0-1 0-2 0; D. Williams 2-3 0-0 5; J. Asbury 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-63 16-22 77.
Three-point goals: - , OAK 5-23 (R. Hamilton 1-5; L. Lucas-Perry 1-6; T. Bader 0-9; D. Valentine 2-2; D. Williams 1-1); Rebounds: , OAK 36 (D. Valentine 15); Assists: , OAK 12 (L. Lucas-Perry 5); Total Fouls -- , OAK 15; Fouled Out: -; OAK-None.