'Huge step for us': Rashad Williams plays hero as Oakland sweeps Detroit Mercy in weekend series
Oakland head coach Greg Kampe was a bit tempered after Saturday's win over Detroit Mercy. Given the unique, COVID-19-inspired back-to-backs in the Horizon League this season, he knew his team wouldn't have much time, less than 24 hours in fact, to celebrate beating its chief rival.
Now, Oakland gets nearly a week to bask in a weekend sweep of the Titans.
Behind perhaps the best game of former JUCO All-American Jalen Moore's career at Oakland and a big step-back and contested 3-pointer from Rashad Williams with 1.4 seconds left, Oakland rallied past Detroit Mercy, 83-80, on Sunday at Calihan Hall.
"This is a huge step for us," said Kampe, whose team started 0-9 with a power-packed schedule that included an overtime loss to Michigan and hang-tough losses to Michigan State and Oklahoma State. "We're gonna enjoy this. Damn right, we're gonna enjoy this.
"We have a long way to go, but big-time players make big-time plays.
"You win because your players make plays."
In a weekend full of big-time plays, Oakland — which went 298 days without a win, then won twice in two days — made them when it mattered most, with buzzer-beating shots in both games for its sixth and seventh consecutive wins at Calihan.
Detroit Mercy (1-7, 0-4) tied the game with 12 seconds left when Noah Waterman lost his footing driving to the basket but somehow shoveled the pass over his shoulder to Willy Isiani, who made the layup.
Moore then took the ball up the court, dribbled to his right and found Williams in the corner. Despite Isiani's hands in his face, Williams drained it, putting the finishing touches on an at-times frustrating game for Oakland's sharpest shooter.
"That shot was tough," Williams said.
"Got it off a bounce pass, and I had a big guy closing in on me. The whole game, my shot was short, so I just lofted it up, put more arc on it so it could drop."
It was Williams' fifth 3-pointer of the game, and third of the second half. Another big one came with 5:59 left, to bring Oakland within 71-68.
Given one last-ditch effort to tie it, after Williams' final shot, Detroit Mercy threw away the inbounds pass.
For Oakland (2-9, 2-2), it's the ninth consecutive victory in the series, and it's won 14 of 16 in the rivalry since Oakland joined the Horizon League eight years ago.
Moore, who's struggled with his shot this year, finished with 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, one of his biggest makes with 40 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, he drained a step-back jumper. He also had seven assists, one coming on the previous possession, niftily dishing to Daniel Oladapo under the basket.
"That's my point guard," Williams said. "He played a really complete game.
"He showed what he can do, what he does best."
Zion Young, another Oakland transfer, had 19 points, and Williams had 18. After a rough first half, he came up big in the second half.
Williams calls Calihan "like home," being from Detroit and having watched his uncle, Detroit Mercy legend Rashad Phillips, growing up.
In January, Williams scored a career-high 37 to beat Detroit Mercy at Calihan. On Sunday, he played hero on his mother's birthday. No need to shop for a present now.
He only got the opportunity Sunday, though, because Detroit Mercy shot early in the clock on the other end, rather than winding it down for the last shot. That's a product of so many new faces still getting familiar with each other, head coach Mike Davis said.
"We took a lot of quick shots," he said. "This team hasn't practiced together. This team has only practiced, I would say, two days together. We don't know each other like we should. We're going to get better, now. ... These are the best pieces we've had."
Oakland trailed most of the game, including 24-10 early, but managed to rally back for a 44-42 halftime lead. The Golden Grizzlies shuffled up their defense, using a press to get back into early, and then a box-and-one on Detroit Mercy star Antoine Davis in the second, Micah Parrish, Saturday's star for Oakland, doing the heavy-lifting there.
Waterman, in just his second game for Detroit Mercy after being declared eligible following his transfer from Niagara, had 19 points, Davis had 18 on four made 3s, and Bul Kuol was huge with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. One of those steals came at the end of the first half, when he took it away from Oakland and went all the way for a layup at the buzzer.
Detroit Mercy lost despite outrebounding an opponent (32-29) for the first time this year. Nine players had multiple rebounds; earlier this year, it played a game with only seven. The Titans also outshot the Golden Grizzlies, 54.2%-50.8%.
Oakland won the first game in overtime, 77-75, on Saturday.
The teams are scheduled to meet again Jan. 22-23 at Oakland, giving the rivals four regular-season meetings for the first time — a scenario neither team is pleased with, and a scenario that could change, if the Horizon League finds a scheduling opportunity.
"I don't want to ... I know Mike doesn't want to either," Kampe said. "I'll tell you this about Detroit. The guy's a really good coach, and he's got talent here. They're going to grow and win. Their size is scary. Their length is scary. Antoine Davis is a good a player as there is in mid-majors. Bul, whatever his name is, Holy Christ, Waterman ... he comes out of the trees, where did he come from, and he's got 19 points.
"(Davis) needs some time. I wouldn't want to play them again the rest of the year."
Detroit Mercy is scheduled to play Friday and Saturday at UIC, though that is in doubt with UIC in COVID-19 protocol. It was UIC's cancellation this weekend that led to the impromptu Detroit-Oakland series.
Oakland, meanwhile, plays Friday and Saturday against Wright State for the Golden Grizzlies' first home games.