State hoops: Here's why Oakland's Greg Kampe didn't foul late in regulation vs. Michigan

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Oakland men's basketball lost the first game by 52 points, then the second by 27, then the third by 14. So, things were trending in the right direction — at least as much as they could for an 0-3 team — entering Sunday night's game at Michigan.

And Oakland, a 32-point dog, almost pulled off the unbelievable shocker, using a zone defense, unheard of in Greg Kampe's tenure, to fluster the Wolverines, from start to finish, at least in regulation.

Oakland head coach Greg Kampe gives instructions in the first half of Sunday's game against Michigan.

The end result was an 81-71 loss in overtime, the fourth overtime loss to a Power Five school in Kampe's tenure, and the first since that thriller with Michigan State at The Palace in 2015.

"And I still have nightmares about all of them," Kampe said Sunday night, while driving from Ann Arbor to West Lafayette, Indiana, for Tuesday's latest toughie, at Purdue.

Oakland, for years and years, has been known for its high-octane offenses, but not necessarily stout defense. That's why it was interesting that when we talked before the Michigan game, Kampe told me he took a lot of positives from the first three games — most notably the turnovers his defense was generating.

Oakland forced 20 turnovers from Michigan on Sunday night, which is why it led much of the second half in a game the Golden Grizzlies shot only 32.8%.

And it was those turnovers that led to one of the biggest decisions of the game.

Michigan got the ball back for the final possession, with less than 30 seconds left, in a tie game. And there was a case to be made for Oakland to foul, get Michigan to the line, and then get the last shot with a chance to win, rather than going to overtime, where Oakland would be playing its 161st, 162nd, 163rd, 164th and 165th minute in five days.

"That sounds good when you say it like that," Kampe said.

But he went another direction, opting for the defensive stand, for a couple of reasons. One, the game had been built on defense for Oakland, so he was confident it could get another stop. Also, he felt that getting another stop, especially one so huge, could pay huge dividends down the road for a team that, four games in, finally looks to be coming together. And he also hoped Oakland might get one more steal.

Oakland got the stop and went to overtime, where Michigan dominated.

Still, all in all, it was an impressive display from a Golden Grizzlies team that only practiced a couple of times in the three weeks prior to the season because the program was shut down with a COVID-19 outbreak. It was that lack of practice, by the way, that's the reason for Oakland playing the zone that's worked so well. Kampe didn't have time to install his typical complex offensive and defensive sets before opening the season at Xavier, which blew Oakland's doors off, 101-49. That was less than a week ago, but now seems so much longer.

Pandemic postponements

This college basketball season is going to require some patience, and some flexibility. Games are being postponed at a frenetic pace, all over the country.

So far, three Division I programs have had games axed, including Central Michigan and Western Michigan, which both lost games with Division III Trine because of a Trine COVID issue.

Detroit Mercy also lost its first three games, at Kentucky's MTE, because a staff member within the Titans program tested positive. No Titans have tested positive, and the program didn't shut down, but exercised serious caution.

That was quite the bummer. There was to be the Calipari Bowl — Kentucky coach John against son Brad, a grad student at Detroit Mercy — but more importantly, a better measuring stick against Richmond, the Atlantic 10 favorite which upset Kentucky on Sunday.

Detroit Mercy is trying desperately to reschedule Kentucky, and Kentucky wants to, too. If that happens, then Detroit Mercy also likely would play Morehead State on the same trip. Any rescheduling would have to take place before the Horizon League season starts Dec. 19.

For now, Detroit Mercy is eyeing its new season opener, at Michigan State on Friday.

Slam dunks

►It was a pretty eye-opening debut for new Western Michigan men's head coach Clayton Bates, whose Broncos took Butler to the brink before falling, 66-62, at famed Hinkle Fieldhouse. Western, which lots its top two scorers from last season to transfer, threatened to snap Butler's 59-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents, the longest such streak in the nation. Keep tabs on the Broncos this week as they play at Notre Dame on Wednesday and at Michigan State on Sunday.

Butler, by the way, paused team activities the day after the opener because of a positive COVID-19 test, but there's no indication anything has spread to Western Michigan.

►One of those Western transfers, former Southfield A&T star Michael Flowers, is off to a great start at South Alabama, leading his team in scoring in each of the first three games (20, 25, 19), including opening night, when he hit the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer a day after his father, Henry, died of cancer.

►Like most schools, Detroit Mercy is selling fan cutouts for this fan-less season — and the first one to take its seat is a special one, with Reggie Hall in his place in the corner of Calihan Hall. Hall, a Detroit Mercy superfan and WXYZ sports producer, died in a car accident in 2015.

►The Mid-American Conference schedule will start with some rivalry games. Central and Western will open against each other, in both men's and women's. WMU will visit CMU on Dec. 9 in women's hoops, and CMU will visit WMU on Dec. 18 in men's hoops.

►Fine start at Illinois-Chicago for new head coach Luke Yaklich, the former Michigan assistant. He's got his team 2-0, thanks to a comeback from a 22-point first-half deficit against Northern Illinois, then a win over Central Michigan.

State power rankings

MEN

1. Michigan State (2-0)

2. Michigan (2-0)

3. Oakland (0-4)

4. Western Michigan (0-1)

5. Detroit Mercy (0-0)

6. Eastern Michigan (0-1)

7. Central Michigan (0-1)

WOMEN

1. Michigan (2-0)

2. Michigan State (1-0)

3. Central Michigan (0-1)

4. Eastern Michigan (1-1)

5. Western Michigan (0-1)

6. Oakland (0-2)

7. Detroit Mercy (0-2)

Games of the week

MEN

►Oakland at Purdue, 3 Tuesday (BTN)

►Michigan State at Duke, 7:30 Tuesday (ESPN)

►Detroit Mercy at Michigan State, 5 Friday (BTN)

WOMEN

►Detroit Mercy at Michigan State, 7 Wednesday

►Michigan at Notre Dame, 6 Thursday

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984