Rochester — It took 13 minutes for Kay Felder to put points on the board, but once he did Oakland University started cooking and surged to a 91-81 victory over Eastern Michigan in its season opener in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 3,800.
A 5-foot-9 guard who averaged 18.1 points per game last season, Felder deferred to Percy Gibson early. But with EMU leading 25-16 and less than eight minutes to play in the first half, the junior sparked a 23-7 run that gave the Grizzlies a 39-32 lead, and some much-needed momentum going into halftime.
“I felt our offense needed it,” Felder said. “As a point guard, I have to figure out ways to not only score but get other players involved to make it easier on everybody.”
OU raced out to a 14-point lead after opening the second half on a 9-2 run. A 13-2 run capped by a Sherron Dorsey-Walker 3-pointer gave the Grizzlies their biggest lead at 73-52 with just over nine minutes left.
EMU trimmed the lead to nine with just over four minutes remaining behind strong play from junior guard Ty Toney, but a Max Hooper 3-pointer pushed the lead back to 85-73, and the Grizzlies held on comfortably.
Felder finished with 27 points and 12 assists, driving to the rim and drawing fouls with regularity. Though he shot just 33 percent from the field, he went 12-for-12 from the free-throw line. OU shot a stellar 21-for-24 from the free-throw line.
“We started driving the basketball and getting to the free-throw line,” OU coach Greg Kampe said. “That got us going, and then we got after them and got some steals. That’s what really sparked us.”
EMU (1-1) built its first-half lead on the strength of its defense, as it forced eight turnovers in the first eight minutes. After that, OU turned things up a notch on defense, forcing 19 Eagles tronvers for the game and holding them to 39-percent shooting.
Gibson, a transfer from Iowa State who played at Detroit Cass Tech, proved to be a handful on the inside. He put up 25 points and 10 rebounds in his regular-season debut for the Grizzlies.
“I just really feel good to be back in my hometown and make stuff happen in front of the people I love,” Gibson said.
Toney was the leading scorer for Eastern with 18 points. Mangum finished with 16, but it took a lot of shooting to get there. He was 5-for-20 from the floor, and 5-for-14 on 3-pointers.
Up next for Oakland is a trip to Colorado State on Sunday. EMU heads to plays at Michigan State next Monday.
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.