Sunday, March 4, 2007
Men’s basketball team moves on to semi-finals
Oakland opened its run at the men’s Mid-Continent Conference Tournament on a successful note tonight as the second seeded Golden Grizzlies jumped out to a 20-point first half lead as they went on to down No. 7 Western Illinois, 74-57. The Golden Grizzlies placed six players in double figures, led by a career-high 14 points from Rick Billings, and will move on to the tournament semifinals on Monday night. The victory was the 18th of the season for Oakland, setting a school record for wins since the program moved to Division I.
|OU's men's basketball team topped Western Illinois in the first round of the Mid-Con tournament.
After the two teams started off 4-4, Oakland (18-13) used the three-point shot to open up an early nine-point advantage. Derick Nelson hit the first before Billings drained two, giving OU a 13-4 lead four minutes in. After a four-minute span in which neither team scored, Oakland went on a 13-0 run, getting three more treys, opening a 26-6 lead on a triple from Johnathon Jones.
Oakland’s defense did its job in the first half, holding Western Illinois (7-23) to just 23 percent shooting, and keeping the Oakland lead intact for the remainder of the half. The Golden Grizzly offense kept things clicking as well, and when Erik Kangas joined the three-point parade at the 4:35 mark, OU had opened up a 36-10 lead. Western then scored seven straight to cut it down to 36-17, but it was as close as the Leathernecks would get in the half. With OU shooting over 63 percent, including 8-of-10 from the three-point line, the Golden Grizzlies went on to take a 41-19 lead at the intermission.
Western Illinois got a pair of three-point shots early in the second half that brought the OU lead under 20 when Sammy Hunter connected to make it 43-25. Jones responded with a trey with five minutes gone in the half that pushed the Golden Grizzly lead back up to 49-27. The Leathernecks cut into the lead again, this time out scoring Oakland, 8-0, making it 49-35 after a pair of David Jackson free throws at the 12:31 mark.
A Shawn Hopes free throw stopped the WIU run and the two teams traded a couple of baskets until OU hit four straight from the free throw line to open its lead back out to 56-39. The Golden Grizzlies then maintained their advantage over the next three minutes until the Leathernecks got five straight from Jackson to bring it down to a 12-point game at 62-50 with six minutes left.
That proved to be as close as Western Illinois would get. The Leathernecks still trailed by 12 with 3:46 to go, but Oakland got baskets from Billings and Jones on consecutive possessions and the Golden Grizzlies pushed its lead back out to 19 on a dunk by Shane Lawal in the final minute.
Billings also led Oakland in rebounding; grabbing a career-high nine while also picking up a pair of steals. Hopes finished with 13 points, with Vova Severovas and Nelson adding 12. Jackson finished with 19 points to lead Western Illinois. Oakland shot 53 percent for the game while holding WIU to 38 percent shooting. OU also had the edge on the boards, 33-31.
Oakland will now move on to the semifinal round of the tournament, taking on the winner of the UMKC-Valparaiso game on Monday, March 5, at 9:30 p.m. Eastern. OU’s women, who won against Centenary on Saturday, will take on IUPUI in the semi-final matchup at 1 p.m. EST on Monday, March 5.
The tournament will be broadcast online for those who wish to take in all of the action. The Mid-Con is offering a full tournament package for $19.95. The package includes every men’s and women’s tournament contest, minus the men’s championship game, which will be aired on ESPN.
The Webcasts, available from the Mid-Con Web site, require a high speed Internet connection and Windows Media Player to view. For more information on the Webcast of the Mid-Con tournament, visit the Mid-Con.tv Web site. Live, free audio broadcasts are available for Mid-Con Championship games is available from the OU Athletics Web site.