Oakland women's coach Jeff Tungate met the media Saturday following a 56-49 loss to IUPUI at Little Caesars Arena. Tony Paul, Detroit News
Detroit — Oakland women’s basketball coach Jeff Tungate had a hard time composing himself following Saturday afternoon’s game. Moments later, senior Taylor Gleason choked up, too.
“I started it Gleason,” Tungate said, with a chuckle.
“I know,” she shot back, “I was composed before that.”
Oakland’s season came to an end in a 56-49 loss to IUPUI in the Horizon League quarterfinals at Little Caesars Arena.
You can understand the emotions. This capped a year that featured what, for all intents and purposes, might as well have been Tungate’s first recruiting class.
Yes, he just completed his fifth year, so he’s had five recruiting classes, but that first year, his time on the trail was limited after being a mid-July 2013 hire, following the firing of his predecessor, Beckie Francis, to scandal.
And while Oakland (15-16) had its ups and downs during the regular season, it still accomplished a lot in a short postseason run — notably, Friday’s victory over UIC, good for the Golden Grizzlies first Horizon League tournament triumph, not to mention a win in LCA’s first-ever women’s basketball game.
The run almost continued, despite getting down 16 points early to IUPUI (22-8).
“Being a Golden Grizzly, just being a part of a family, both within our team and within the Oakland community, we have a lot of really loyal fans,” said Gleason, who spent three years at Oakland after transferring from Illinois.
With that, her voice began to trail off, as teammate and fellow senior Leah Somerfield patted her leg in support.
“It doesn’t just hurt for us, it hurts for all our boosters and all our fans,” Gleason, her eyes wet and red, eventually was able to continue. “We wish we would’ve been able to pull this one out, and really keep it going.”
Somerfield, a forward from Greenville, led Oakland with 13 points, despite being in early foul trouble. Sha-Keya Graves, a red-shirt senior guard from Inkster and a DePaul transfer, added 10 points before fouling out. Gleason, a Grand Blanc native, added nine points.
After getting off to such a hot start in Friday’s win, Oakland couldn’t buy a bucket early Saturday, trailing, 20-8, after the first quarter. It was down by as many as 16 points in the second quarter, but didn’t give in, pulling to within 48-46 on junior guard Taylor Jones’ layup with 4:46 left in the game.
“The difference between this game and other games, in the first quarter when we weren’t making shots ... we snapped out of it,” Tungate said. “I thought that was a really good thing. They found a way to get back in the game, and give themselves a chance to win. I’m really proud of their fight, and really proud of what they did. They didn’t quit. They didn’t give up.”
They just didn’t make enough shots.
After that Jones bucket, Oakland didn’t make another field goal for the next 4 minutes, 10 seconds — on another Jones layup.
By that point, it was too little, too late — and Oakland’s loss left just one local team, the Oakland men, remaining in the Horizon League tournaments
Tungate said that drought was a combination of some good IUPUI defense and some rushed, haphazard shots by the Golden Grizzlies.
“Every bad shot is magnified,” Tungate said. “And those one or two bad ones really come back to hurt you.”
Senior guard Danielle Lawrence and freshman forward Macee Williams led IUPUI with 14 points each, and Lawrence also had four steals.
IUPUI, the No. 2 seed, advances to Monday’s 3:30 semifinal against the winner of Sunday’s Wright State-Cleveland State.
One more key stat from Saturday’s defeat: Oakland had 12 offensive rebounds, but only three second-chance points. Not that anyone, of course, is going to remember that 20 or 30 years from now. This team made memories that will far outlive that little nugget.
“It’s been an amazing four years,” Somerfield said.