Oakland's Hayes (teeth) '50-50' for Sunday NIT game

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

On the plane ride home from South Carolina on Wednesday, all of Jalen Hayes’ teammates wanted to know how he was feeling.

With wads of blood-soaked gauze still in his mouth, you can imagine he was in no mood for casual chit-chat.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe has his team in the second round of the NIT.

Hayes, a junior forward, will meet with a dentist at 7:30 Thursday morning as he continues to get stitched up following a gruesome injury suffered in Oakland’s 74-69 victory at Clemson in the opening game of the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday night.

“I told him,” said Oakland coach Greg Kampe, “he’s not going to be kissing his girl for a while.”

Kampe said Hayes probably is “50-50” to play in the second-round game for No. 7 Oakland. The game is set for 5 p.m. Sunday at No. 6 seed Richmond, a 71-64 winner over third-seeded Alabama.

In the first-round game Tuesday, Hayes went down in the first half, after getting knocked in the face. Blood shot all over the court where he sat.

Hayes was taken to an area hospital, where several teeth were found to have shifted, cutting deep into the inside of his lip.

He didn’t return, yet Oakland rallied without him, coming back from a 19-point deficit at halftime and a 20-point deficit early in the second half to earn what Kampe considers one of the top three victories in program history. The Golden Grizzlies, after all, have never won an NCAA Tournament game, and are playing in their first NIT.

Kampe said Hayes’ status for the second-round game could have improved by the game being Sunday. If it were a quick turnaround, and Friday, he likely would be out.

“He’s still oozing blood today,” Kampe said Wednesday night. “He still can’t eat.”

The extra rest may allow Oakland to get back sophomore center Brad Brechting, too. Brechting has been sidelined with an ankle injury.

The matchup for Oakland (25-8) is a tough one in Richmond (21-12), which runs a four-guard set with a big man who can shoot 3’s. That could draw Golden Grizzlies big Isaiah Brock out of the paint.