Oakland women's basketball coach Jeff Tungate had a strong hunch that this was going to be a rebuilding season. His team is very young.
So you take the little victories when they come.
For instance, the Golden Grizzlies qualified for the Horizon League tournament, as the eighth and final seed in the 10-team league. Oakland will open against top-seeded Wright State, on the road, at 5:30 Tuesday.
The teams met in the regular-season finale Saturday at the O'Rena. Wright State held on for the 73-64 victory.
"The good thing is we don't have a whole lot of preparation to do," Tungate said. "We've got a do a better job rebounding, and make more of our open looks, and I like our chances.
"We've got a lot to build on. I'm not ready to be done this season, and I don't think our kids are, either."
Oakland (6-23, 3-15) booked a tough nonconference schedule, with games against Central Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan. In hindsight, Tungate said, that really wasn't the best approach, as it never allowed the young players a chance to get acclimated and comfortable.
And before long, the season already was spiraling.
Tungate, though, said he was pleased with his players' positive attitude throughout the admittedly frustrating season — which also included him being sidelined seven games with a back injury.
And he sees progress of late, especially in Saturday's game, in which Oakland scored 31 points in the fourth quarter.
Senior Taylor Jones, as per usual, led the way with 18 points, and LaKyesha Stennis scored 16. Chloe Guingrich had 12 rebounds, Nikita Telesford 10.
This is the first year the Horizon League has limited the postseason tournament field. and Tungate said it was an accomplishment to make it.
The postseason experience should pay off down the road, he said, and it gives his players a chance to play at Little Caesars Arena this season. An upset win Tuesday would get Oakland into the semifinals, set for Monday, March 11 at LCA.
"I would hope that our kids want to get there and play in such a great place," Tungate said. "I would hope that's motivating."
Wright State (24-6, 16-2) was led Saturday by Mackenzie Taylor and Emily Vogelpohl, who each scored 11, and Symone Simmons, who had 11 rebounds. Wright State ended Green Bay's 20-year regular-season championship streak.
Green Bay (20-8, 15-3) is the No. 2 seed, and hosts Cleveland State (10-19, 7-11) on Wednesday. In other first-round games: No. 4 IUPUI (19-10, 13-5) hosts No. 5 Northern Kentucky (11-17, 10-8) on Tuesday, and No. 3 Youngstown State (21-8, 13-5) will host No. 6 Milwaukee (15-14, 10-8) on Wednesday.
The semifinals are at 1 and 3 March 11 and the final at noon March 12, all at LCA.
Detroit Mercy (4-25, 2-16) and UIC (3-26, 1-17) didn't qualify for the tournament.
Detroit Mercy lost at home to Northern Kentucky, 81-63, on Saturday. Paige Bellman led the Titans with 15 points and nine rebounds, and Zoey Oatis had 11 points. Ally Niece scored 22 for Northern Kentucky.
After making the Horizon League tournament championship game in 2017, the Titans have won six games total the past two seasons.
More state women
Central Michigan 87, (at) Eastern Michigan 60: Maddy Watters hit seven 3-pointers and finished with 24 points as the Chippewas (22-6, 13-3) clinched the Mid-American Conference West Division regular-season championship.
The win also secured Central a first-round bye in the MAC tournament, meaning the team will advance directly to Cleveland.
Reyna Frost had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Micaela Kelly scored 21 for Central.
(At) Western Michigan 72, Ball State 54: Leighah-Amori Wool had 19 points and Deja Wimby 14 points and 11 assists as the Broncos (10-17, 4-12) cruised to the win. Jasmyn Walker had 13 points and 12 rebounds and Kamrin Reed 12 points. For Ball State (7-21, 2-14), Jasmin Samz led the way with 13 points.