Disastrous close to first half makes hill too big to climb for Oakland
Detroit — Oakland never led against Michigan State on Tuesday night.
But the Golden Grizzlies had a golden opportunity to surge ahead late in the opening half before a disastrous series of events over a three-minute stretch made for an uphill battle that Oakland never could scale in a 90-78 loss to No. 11 Michigan State in front of a rowdy crowd of 16,837 at Little Caesars Arena.
Highlighting — lowlighting? — the stretch was a technical foul called on Oakland head coach Greg Kampe, irate that no goaltending was called when Michigan State's Gabe Brown grabbed Max Christie's missed 3-pointer and threw it down.
Brown made both free throws for a 42-35 Michigan State lead en route to a 44-35 halftime advantage; Oakland had trailed, 36-35, with 3:09 left.
"That's what I said to them: 'Your coach screwed you,'" Kampe said. "It was goaltending, and in a game like this, you can't miss this. ... I wasn't happy.
"Did it swing the game? Maybe it did. ... If it did, then I feel really bad about it. But it it happened again tomorrow, I'd do the same damn thing.
"I don't think I should've gotten a technical. ... There are times I know I deserve one and there are times I want one. But that was not one of the times."
The technical drew the most attention, but five turnovers in the final 3:09 of the first half were killers for the Golden Grizzlies — albeit, two on what many observers thought should've been fouls on Michigan State.
Oakland (7-4) had scored eight straight points, led by two 3-pointers from forward Jamal Cain, to pull within a point, before making five turnovers to close the half — three by point guard Jalen Moore.
Michigan State (10-2) scored after four of them.
"They just took off from there," said Moore, who finished with 25 points on 7-for-14 shooting and 11 assists.
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The turnovers, as well as Michigan State's offensive rebounding (16 for the game), were the difference early, and held up late. Oakland shot 50% in the first half, but trailed by nine because it took eight fewer shots than Michigan State.
The margin for error for Oakland in this series — now 20-0, in favor of Michigan State — is always slim, and that proved the case again Tuesday. But not before Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was impressed. Spanning late in the first half and early in the second, the Spartans scored 11 straight to take an 11-point lead. It got as high as 16, before the Golden Grizzlies' cut it to eight with 1:39 left. Oakland then got a defensive stop, only to cough it up again on the other end, all but sealing the deal.
Cain, a graduate transfer, scored 20 while being guarded tightly by his former teammate at Marquette, Joey Hauser, most of the night. Redshirt freshman forwards Micah Parrish and Townsend finished with 19 and 14 points, respectively.
And that was it. Four players did all the scoring. Moore, Cain and Townsend played 40 minutes. Parrish was the "slacker," at 39. It's quite the foursome, though.
"Maybe depth hurts them a little bit," said Izzo, who saw nine of his guys score. "But I really like his team."
Izzo — who received a technical in the second half — said this Oakland team might not be as good as the 2011 one that went to the NCAA Tournament or the 2015 one that took then-No. 1 Michigan State to OT at The Palace in 2015.
But the Golden Grizzlies might not need to be to get back to the NCAAs. They're better defensively than almost ever — the 90 points by Michigan State, which shot 55.2% for the game and even better, 57.6%, in the second half — and the star power of the "Cour Four" should stand up handsomely in Horizon League action. That's next for Oakland. Conference play resumes Dec. 30 at home against Robert Morris.
Surely, not many Horizon League teams are going to outscore Oakland in the paint, 48-26; beat the Golden Grizzlies in second-chance points, 27-9; and outscore their bench, 27-0. Michigan State, a team with turnover issues this season, only turned it over 10 times Tuesday night.
"They're a really good basketball team," said Kampe, "and so are we.
"I thought we were gonna win tonight."
Townsend, a 2020 Oxford High graduate, spoke before the game from center court, saying Oakland and Michigan State were dedicating the game to the victims of the Nov. 30 shooting — which killed four students and injured seven others.
Townsend, whose sister was in the school when the shooting started and is friends with the Myre family who lost their son, Tate, then led the crowd in a moment of silence.
"The support that the community has received has been outstanding," Townsend told the fans. "And I speak for all of Oxford when I say, thank you all."
Townsend then received a nice ovation during pregame introductions from a heavily tilted MSU crowd.
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