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Sunday's basketball: Oakland wins Horizon League title

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Sherron Dorsey-Walker

Oakland University won its first regular-season Horizon League championship Sunday afternoon, beating Milwaukee, 86-75, on the road.

Valparaiso, which won four of the previous five Horizon League titles, lost earlier in the day to Northern Kentucky.

That set up a tie atop the standings, with Oakland earning the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep over Valparaiso. That means Oakland will open this week’s Horizon League tournament at Joe Louis Arena as the No. 1 seed.

Oakland (24-7, 14-4) has won nine games in a row since a midseason hiccup when it lost four of five.

"You think anybody outside of our locker room after we walked off the floor after losing to Cleveland State (Jan. 16) at home thought we would be the champions?" coach Greg Kampe said. "Perseverance. Our kids never quit. They pulled themselves off the mat, they worked really hard, they deserve it."

Oakland made 13 3-pointers, after averaging just about six a game in conference play entering the game.

Senior Sherron Dorsey-Walker scored 28 in the victory, on the strength of a career-high eight 3-pointers (in 11 attempts).

The performance didn't catch Kampe by surprise. Once he heard Valpo had lost before the Oakland tip, he had a feeling about Dorsey-Walker.

"I had no doubt, when I heard Valpo lost, that Sherron would lead us today," Kampe said. "I didn't know if we were gonna win or not, but I knew he would be the guy if we were gonna win who would drag us there.

"You're talking about a great young kid who works his tail off, and great things happen to good people."

Martez Walker scored 21, including four 3-pointers, making up for a costly technical foul in the first half that led to a five-point swing in Milwaukee's favor.

Milwaukee (8-23, 4-14), coached by former Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan, had tied it at 39 by halftime.

This is Oakland's first conference championship since winning the Summit League in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

The Golden Grizzlies, who also had a significant nonconference victory over Georgia, caught some folks by surprise this season, after losing program legend Kay Felder to the NBA draft following last season, his junior year.

"How many teams can lose an NBA draft pick that was coming back at the mid-major level, and still go on and win a championship?" Kampe said. "From Day 1 when he said he was leaving, they embraced the challenge. They played with a chip on their shoulder.

"When they got knocked down, they got up.

Big-time contributions from Dorsey-Walker, Walker, junior-college transfer Stevie Clark and Army veteran Isaiah Brock led to Kampe's sixth conference championship in this, his 33rd season as head coach.

Oakland gets a tournament bye into the 5:30 p.m. Saturday game, where it will play the winner of the 8-9 game Friday between Youngstown State and Cleveland State.

Detroit Mercy (6-12, 8-22), after losing, 89-81, to Green Bay in the regular-season finale Sunday, will play Milwaukee at 8 p.m. Friday. The winner goes on to play Valparaiso (24-7, 14-4) in the 8 p.m. Saturday game. That will be the third meeting between Jordan and Bacari Alexander, who spent the previous six seasons working together on John Beilein's staff at Michigan. They split the previous two meetings.

Big Ten 

Illinois 73, (at) Nebraska 57: Malcolm Hill scored 19 points and Illinois went on a 3-point shooting spree in the second half for the Illini,  (17-12, 7-9), who won their third straight road game and for the fourth time in five games overall. Tai Webster had 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists to lead the Cornhuskers (12-16, 6-10).

Top 25

No. 7 Louisville 88, Syracuse 68: Donovan Mitchell made six 3-pointers for 25 points, Ray Spalding added 18 points with 11 rebounds as Louisville (23-6, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) rebounded from its loss at No. 8 North Carolina. Tyus Battle had 20 points and Tyler Lydon 17 for Syracuse (17-13, 9-8).

(At) UCF 53, No. 15 Cincinnati 49: B.J. Taylor scored 27 points and 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall had seven points and four blocked shots to help UCF (19-10, 10-7) pull off the upset.

(At) No. 21 Notre Dame 64, Georgia Tech 60: Bonzie Colson had 20 points and 11 rebounds in Notre Dame's fifth straight victory. Matt Farrell added 17 points for the Irish (22-7, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference). Tadric Jackson led Georgia Tech (16-13, 7-9) with 20 points.

No. 22 Butler 88, (at) Xavier 79: Kelan Martin scored 25 and Butler (23-6, 12-5 Big East) followed its biggest road win of the season with yet another. Trevon Bluiett had 21 points for Xavier (18-11, 8-8), which has lost five in a row, its deepest slump in 35 years.

HORIZON LEAGUE TOURNAMENTS

At Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

MEN

Friday, March 3

Detroit Mercy (8-22, 6-12) vs. Milwaukee (8-23, 4-14), 5:30 p.m.

Youngstown State (11-20, 9-21) vs. Cleveland State (9-21, 5-13), 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 4

Youngstown State-Cleveland State winner vs. Oakland (24-7, 14-4), 5:30 p.m.

Detroit Mercy-Milwaukee winner vs. Valparaiso (24-7, 14-4), 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 5

Northern Kentucky (21-10, 12-6) vs. Illinois-Chicago (14-17, 7-11), 5 p.m.

Green Bay (18-12, 12-6) vs. Wright State (20-11, 11-7), 7:30 p.m.

Monday, March 6

Semifinals, 7 and 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 7

Final, 7 p.m.

WOMEN

Friday, March 3

Northern Kentucky (9-21, 5-13) vs. Illinois-Chicago (5-24, 2-16), noon

Youngstown State (9-20, 5-13) vs. Valparaiso (9-20, 4-14), 2:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 4

Green Bay (24-5, 15-3) vs. Youngstown State-Valparaiso winner, 11:30 a.m.

Wright State (22-7, 14-3) vs. Northern Kentucky-Illinois-Chicago winner, 2 p.m.

Sunday, March 5

Detroit Mercy (16-13, 12-6) vs. Cleveland State (14-15, 9-9), noon

Oakland (18-11, 12-6) vs. Milwaukee (19-9, 11-6), 2:30 p.m.

Monday, March 6

Semifinals, 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 7

Final, noon

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tonypaul1984