Game #9-419: Oakland Golden Grizzlies at IPFW MastodonsFebruary 20, 2013 7:00 pm
Gates Sports Center
I had seen this before from the IPFW Mastodons. In a home game against a top-tier Summit League opponent, the Mastodons get off to an early lead, sustain that lead for a considerable period of time, gradually lose the lead, then fall behind and never get back up on top again. I saw that pattern in their loss to South Dakota State a couple of weeks ago, then saw it once more two nights later in their loss to North Dakota State. Now, here they were again, having built up a big first half lead over Oakland, having watched that lead gradually erode away, and now found themselves trailing with five and a half minutes to play. I know this story. I can leave the game now, and I can write the ending on my drive home. History will repeat itself once more... * * * * *
This has been a long and strange season for Coach Greg Kampe and the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. After a blowout home win over Division III Albion to open the season, Oakland hit the road - for seven straight games. In the midst of this SWAC-like schedule, the only road win the Grizzlies were able to pick up was at the SWAC's own Texas Southern. They closed the bulk of their non-conference schedule with three of their next five on the road, and then opened the conference schedule with four road games in their first five conference tilts. By the time that the scheduling gods had finished exacting their vengeance on Oakland in mid-January, the road weary Grizzlies had an overall record of 7-12, and were just 2-3 in Summit League play. They were 4-0 at home, 3-12 on the road.
From that point forward, their scheduling fortunes reversed, as did their winning percentage. Energized by a stretch of four straight home games, and six contests out of seven at the O'Rena, Oakland climbed back into contention in the league standings, in the process avenging earlier road losses to all three of the Summit League's fellow contenders - Western Illinois, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State. They entered this visit to IPFW with an overall mark of 15-13, 10-4 in league play. The Grizz might still have an uphill climb to qualify for the NCAA tournament, but it was appearing quite likely that they'd be back in the postseason at some level once again.
From the outset of this game, an intriguing coaching chess match took place. After giving him almost no defensive responsibility on Nate Wolters when the South Dakota State star put 53 points on them, IPFW Coach Tony Jasick decided that Frank Gaines would have the primary assignment of guarding Oakland's star Travis Bader, who entered the game as the nation's sixth leading scorer. This was not a responsibility that Frank-He-Is would take lightly, as he face-guarded Bader from the opening tip. Kampe countered this move by simply directing Bader to stand still just across the halfcourt line; this essentially took both Bader and Gaines completely out of the action, creating a four-on-four offensive scenario for most of the first five minutes of play.
This allowed Oakland to get some good shots on offense, but Gaines got off to an offensive explosion, perhaps in part since he didn't have to expend any energy on defense. After a couple of turnovers, and facing a 12-7 deficit, Kampe changed strategy and included Bader in the offensive attack. With just under eight minutes remaining in the first half, Bader scored to tie the score at 25. After a (literal) slow start, Bader was 3-3 from the field, had ten points, and was demonstrating a strong effort to draw fouls. On the other side, Gaines was 5-10 from the field, and had thirteen quick points to his credit. Amazingly, neither of them would score again in the half.
The Mastodons then went on an 11-0 run, keyed by three-pointers from Luis Jacobo (twice) and Isaiah McCray. Oakland then responded with an 8-0 run of their own, keyed by a pair of three-pointers from Dante Williams. IPFW closed out the half with three turnovers and seven missed shots. They had their chance to put the game away, and didn't take advantage. Same old story for the home team...
In the second half, IPFW maintained a lead, but did so in a quite unusual way. Gaines played a limited role in the offense, taking only three shots and missing them all. However, role players like Joe Reed, Joe Edwards, and Mario Hines kept the offense functioning at a high level. During a time when they'd usually lean on Gaines, these other players were keeping their team in the lead. For Oakland, Bader stayed very active, and I felt that he'd be able to seize control of the game at any moment. That moment appeared to come at about the 6:00 mark - down by two, Bader drove the ball to the basket and converted a layup. After an Edwards miss for IPFW, Bader again scored on a layup. I shook my head and realized that I was in the déjà vu moment.
* * * * *
But then the unthinkable happened. As if they'd switched jerseys, it was the Mastodons who made all of the plays necessary to win, and it was the Grizzlies who fell apart. Jacobo had five points, an assist, and a critical offensive rebound, helping IPFW turn its two-point deficit into a five-point lead in the span of about a minute and a half. Oakland was limited to shooting three-pointers with an increasing degree of desperation, missing seven of them in a row.
All Kampe could do was look on with a combination of disgust and disbelief.
In his post-game comments, Kampe's disgust had not subsided. He provided a candid and accurate analysis of his team's effort on the evening. In a word, unacceptable.
In spite of it all, I still see potential from this Oakland team. Because of a scheduling quirk, they follow up their BracketBuster game with Morehead State with a home game against this same IPFW team. Then, if I project the final Summit League standings correctly, they will very likely open the conference tournament against IPFW as well. If they can get past the Mastodons, I still envision semi-final matchups in that tournament among the league's Big Four. If he can get his team to that point, Kampe's frustration from this night may be long forgotten.
at IPFW 77, OAKLAND 71
OAKLAND 15-14 (10-5) -- B. Simons 3-12 6-6 14; T. Bader 6-15 9-11 23; C. Petros 6-9 3-9 15; D. Valentine 4-8 4-9 12; R. Bass 5-12 0-0 11; D. Mondy 1-5 0-0 2; D. Williams 3-3 0-0 8; R. Carter 0-0 0-0 0; J. Asbury 0-0 0-0 0; M. Poches 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 16-29 71.
IPFW 13-16 (6-9) -- F. Gaines 5-16 6-8 17; L. Jacobo 5-12 2-2 15; J. Reed 6-8 2-3 14; J. Edwards 4-9 1-1 11; M. Hines 4-9 2-3 10; P. Bland 1-3 2-4 4; M. Kibiloski 1-4 0-0 3; I. McCray 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 27-62 15-21 77.
Three-point goals: OAK 5-20 (D. Mondy 0-2; T. Bader 2-10; D. Valentine 0-2; R. Bass 1-4; D. Williams 2-2), IPFW 8-23 (B. Gaines 1-5; L. Jacobo 3-9; M. Kibiloski 1-4; I. McCray 1-1; J. Edwards 2-3; P. Bland 0-1); Rebounds: OAK 30 (D. Valentine 7), IPFW 33 (L. Jacobo 9); Assists: OAK 8 (D. Mondy 5), IPFW 18 (L. Jacobo 4); Total Fouls -- OAK 21, IPFW 19; Fouled Out: OAK-C. Petros; IPFW-None.