Rochester — Oakland welcomed a team from a major conference to its campus for the first time in five years, and once again, a brand-named school walked out of the O’rena with a loss as the Golden Grizzlies used a big second half to beat Georgia, 86-79, on Friday night.
The Bulldogs were the first team from a Power Five conference to visit Oakland since Tennessee made the trek north in November of 2011 and fell by eight points.
Junior guard Martez Walker found his groove in the second half, powering a comeback for a Golden Grizzlies squad that trailed the entire first half. Walker scored 10 in the first five minutes of the second half, including seven straight during a 12-0 run that gave the Oakland a 56-49 lead.
“Coach (Greg Kampe) was on us going into the half that we didn’t have enough energy,” Walker said. “We didn’t come out here to lose. I just had to come through.”
Walker finished with a game-high 30 points.
“Tonight, we got back to being who we are,” Kampe said. “It’s a long season and he’s going to have a lot of nights like this.”
The Bulldogs (8-4) cut their deficit to three at 78-75 with two minutes remaining, but Walker came up big on the next possession, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the lead back to six.
“The hungrier team won today,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “They were more determined and outplayed us in the second half. We just started the half very poorly and they made the plays.”
The second half was a complete flip of the switch from the disorganization Oakland showed on both sides of the ball for much of the first half.
Senior guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker (12 points) hit two early 3-pointers for the Golden Grizzlies, but Georgia answered with a 12-0 run to take a 19-6 lead early. Senior guard J.J. Frazier scored 18 first-half points to lead the Bulldogs, but he went cold in the second half and finished with 22.
“They were so good for those first seven or eight minutes of the game,” Kampe said. “They could’ve played with anybody in the country those first minutes, but our depth wore them down. We had all kinds of energy the last 20 minutes of the game.”
Oakland got a surprise boost off the bench from freshman guard Brailen Nelly, who came in and had nine points and four assists running the point in place of a struggling Stevie Clark in the second half.
“We knew what this meant to us, so we huddled up as a team and came together,” Neely said. “I didn’t really expect to step into a big role like I did tonight, but the coaches told me to be ready and I stepped up to the plate.”
Georgia’s athleticism down low looked like it would be a difference-maker early on. The Bulldogs built a 21-15 advantage on the boards in the first half, but the Golden Grizzlies finished the night with a rebounding deficit of just 35-34. They outscored Georgia in second-chance points, 17-12.
OU is now 4-2 all-time against Power Five schools at home.
The win capped a tough week for Oakland, which lost to Northeastern on a buzzer-beater Tuesday, then played Michigan State tough Wednesday before losing.
Grizzlies slow down local star
One reason Fox scheduled this game at Oakland was he wanted to keep a promise to two Metro Detroit players on his squad.
Junior forward Yante Maten, who came into the game as the second-leading scorer in the SEC at 21 points per game, didn’t have the homecoming he was expecting. Maten was in foul trouble all night and fouled out with six minutes remaining.
“We wanted to bring our Michigan kids home, but this was a tough night for him,” Fox said. “When he’s in foul trouble, that was tough for us.”
Oakland was able to keep Maten in check, holding the former Bloomfield Hills Lahser star to just five points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field.
“What we wanted to do was physically push him off the block,” Kampe said. “We made a couple of mistakes early, but we did a really great job for the last 30 minutes. We really guarded well in the middle of the game. They couldn’t get that entry pass. “
Former Westland John Glenn star Mike Edwards, a sophomore forward, scored six off the bench for the Bulldogs.
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.