Oakland Cruises Past Rochester College

ROCHESTER HILLS — Oakland University has made a valiant effort to schedule one of the tougher non-conference schedules each year in Division I.

For Rochester College, the Warriors and retiring coach Garth Pleasant, the plan is to play multiple Division I and Division II schools every year.

Rochester is a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association and far from a D-I institution, while OU moved ot the NCAA Division I ranks in 1997-98.

Regardless of the school size and level, the two meet annually on the basketball court, and did so again Monday night at the O’Rena as part of the semifinals of the Lou Henson Award Tournament.

As expected, Oakland defeated Rochester College 103-79 to advance to the finals against Valparaiso on Tuesday. That is only part of the story.

OU honored Coach Pleasant, a veteran in the coaching circles who has over 700 coaching wins and four national titles at the small-college level, before Monday’s contest. The Grizzlies made sure the ceremony did not last into the game.

Oakland (8-6) opened with a quick 19-5 and led by double figures throughout the contest. The Grizzlies sent 11 of 12 active players into the scoring column, but by no means did the Golden Grizzlies completely dominate the smaller Warriors.

“I thought we actually played well,” said Greg Kampe, Oakland’s head coach for 27 years and a longtime close friend of Pleasant. “We messed with our lineup a little bit. I thought we were really good in the beginning of the game and I thought Garth’s team was really good in the middle of the game. I am happy for him. It was a big night for him and I glad his team (played well).

Rochester College (8-7), which has already played two Division I and three Division II schools this season, fell behind by 26 points at one point in the first half and trailed 54-34 at the break. The Warriors did claw back to within 73-61 with 12:32 to play on a jumper from Lawrence Hicks, but that was as close as they would get.

Oakland extended the lead back up to 18 points over the next three minutes (84-66) and led by 24 points in the second half.

Despite allowing Rochester to score 79 points and cut the deficit down to 12, Oakland coach Greg Kampe was not displeased by his team’s play. He knew that RC would not go down without a fight.

“We’re pleased that we got the win, but we’re also pleased that (Rochester College) played well.”

Pleasant, who befriended Kampe in the mid-1980s, is impressed with Oakland, a team that is 1-4 against ranked teams this season.

Keith Benson led five Grizzlies in double figures with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Reggie Hamilton added 17 points, Travis Bader and Will Hudson added 14 points apiece and Larry Wright scored 12 with six assists for Oakland.

Oakland out-rebounded the Warriors 49-29. This came just two days after a 69-51 loss to Michigan and six days after the Golden Grizzlies stunned top-10-ranked Tennessee.

Oakland shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half and 47.8 percent (33-for-69) for the game.

Rochester College had four players in doubles, paced by Michael Graham’s 18 points. Ricky Doran, Sean Mattia and Lawrence Hicks all added 12 points each for the Warriors, who also shot 47.8 percent (33-for-69).

“Shooting is all about confidence,” said Wright, whose team made 16 three-pointers to pull away from the Warriors.”We’re a good shooting team, and the shots sometimes (are not) falling for us. We just continued to shoot. The shots fell for us tonight.”

Pleasant didn’t expect to win Monday’s game. He instead sees Oakland as a team that could very well make a run in the NCAA Division I tournament in March, and a game that will help his Warriors compete in the USCAA.

“I told Greg yesterday, there’s not a reason that (Oakland) can’t be a Butler. I know a lot of things has to happen,: said Pleasant. “My son, who is an assistant for me, was on that Kent State team that got to the (Elite) Eight (in 2002) that got beat by Indiana to go to the Final Four.

“This is a special (Oakland) team,” continued Pleasant. “They’re athletic, but they are players. I would always tell kids if someone says you’re an athlete, that’s not a complement. That is nothing to do with being an athlete, that’s just God-given talent. If you’re a player, that’s a complement. This team is athletic, they have players and they are incredibly well-coached.”

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