Rochester — By the time Oakland University put the final touches on an improbable 84-76 overtime victory over Wright State Wednesday, the O'rena was drenched with emotion and glee. But it took a while to get there.
LeBron James wasn't in the house. The opponent wasn't as sexy and the crowd was more subdued than 48 hours earlier when Oakland knocked Cleveland State out of first place in the Horizon League with an emotional three-point victory before one of the NBA's best players and a house ready to party.
This one turned into a nail-biter but not until Oakland erased a 10-point deficit over the final 111/2 minutes of the game. That's when coach Greg Kampe screamed for his team to suck it up and make its run and to win with defense.
This game was harder to get up for than Monday's win when Cleveland State was in first place and NBA MVP James watched. Oakland would have a harder time revving it up this time. Kampe the motivator was passionate all night. He told players that this game would come down to one possession and that his team would either be pretenders or contenders.
"I've seen it for more than 37 years," Kampe said. "Championship teams find a way to win these games. The pretender loses that game and goes into the locker room and makes excuses. I told them that this was going to be one tough game. Joe Average would have lost at home tonight."
The Grizzlies are a newcomer to the league that is still trying to earn respect. Now teams must pay attention to them. The team that was given up for dead after a blitzing by Detroit has now poked its head into the Horizon race. The Grizzlies (10-12, 5-2) is now one game in the loss column behind first place Wisconsin-Green Bay.
They got there by playing in a school-high fifth overtime and ran their OT record to 3-2.
Oakland got big plays from a number of players. Freshman Jalen Hayes scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He scored the first four points of overtime as the Grizzlies took over. Corey Petros (14 points, 10 rebounds), Kahill Felder (18 points, 13 assists) and Dante Williams (16 points) were also in double figures for the Grizzlies.
However, freshman big shot Nick Daniels hit two of the bigger shots of the game. He hit a twisting shot in the lane that came out of nowhere to put Oakland up 60-59 with 0.43 remaining in regulation. And he buried a 3-point shot in overtime that put Oakland up six (73-67) with 1:13 remaining.
"Coach tells me all the time that you don't get that many minutes that when you call my name I have to be reach," Daniels said. "I am really confident with my shot. Coach said I am a shooter. When he wants me to shoot, I shoot."
Wright State (11-11, 3-5) was led by Joe Thomasson with 17 points and Chrishawn Hopkins with 16. Hopkins hit a 28-foot 3-point shot with 0.2 remaining to send the game into overtime. WSU hit 13 3-point shots to stay in contention.
Now it gets tougher for Oakland. The next four games are on the road including big ones at Valparaiso (6-2) and Milwaukee (6-2).