Oakland women roll to easy victory in Horizon opener

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Oakland's Korrin Taylor drives around UIC's Brittany Byrd in the second quarter Friday.

Detroit — For the first time since joining the Horizon League, the Oakland women's basketball team has won a conference tournament game.

And the Golden Grizzlies did it in dominating fashion, running all over UIC early and often en route to a breezy 80-46 victory Friday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.

Oakland (15-15), the seventh seed, will play No. 2 seed IUPUI at noon Saturday. The victory guarantees a local team will play at least once a day for at least the first three days of the five-day tournament.

"It's really important, not just for our team, but for the tournament," Oakland coach Jeff Tungate said. "Now our fans have a Friday game, a Saturday game, our men play on Sunday, with the possibility of Monday and Tuesday games.

"For the effort that's put in by the Horizon League and Olympia (Entertainment) to have the tournament here, we have to do our part to make it a successful tournament."

Junior Taylor Jones, the Horizon League's sixth player of the year, led Oakland with 20 points.

Senior Cierra Bond scored 19, and senior Leah Somerfield had 11 rebounds.

Jones scored just three points in the opening half.

"The second half," said Jones, "I think I just kind of let the game come to me."

Oakland started hot and stayed hot, leading 22-11 after the opening quarter and 36-17 at the half. And it never let up from there against a UIC team that finishes 8-22, having lost 19 of its final 20 games.

Oakland, which has struggled with consistency this season, has won four of five.

"The nickname for our team should be Cedar Point, because we're a roller coaster," Tungate said. "When that first shot went in, I felt, Cedar Point's a good ride today."

Senior Taylor Gleason added 14 points for the Golden Grizzlies, who last won a conference tournament game when they were in the Summit League.

Junior Brittany Byrd led UIC, the 10 seed, with 13 points, and junior Taylor Toney had 12. UIC shot just 27.4 percent for the game, while Oakland shot 45.2.

IUPUI swept the season series with Oakland, but don't be surprised if Oakland makes a little bit more noise this weekend, UIC coach Regina Miller said.

"They're playing better now than even when we played them at their place a couple weeks ago (95-78 Oakland win)," Miller said. "I was hopeful maybe we could catch them on a down day, but at this point in the year, everyone's playing for something.

"They came out and showed that today."

And in doing so, Oakland won the first-ever women's game played at LCA.

That's not lost on the Golden Grizzlies.

"For years to come, as long this building's here, it's going to go in a program that the first women's basketball ever played was Oakland University against UIC," Tungate said.

"To be the first game here in this special building, it really means a lot."