Oakland's Kampe: Don't write off Michigan State
East Lansing — Following Sunday’s loss to Northeastern, some were wondering if Michigan State’s season was starting to go off the rails.
The Spartans were sitting at 7-5 overall with one more nonconference game to play and their best player still on the sidelines with an ankle injury.
After Wednesday’s 77-65 victory over Oakland, however, Golden Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe is dismayed at the Michigan State detractors. He struggled to remember the exact wording but referenced the old phrase, “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
In other words, Kampe’s not buying that Michigan State is in trouble.
“There’s a lot of talented players out there,” Kampe said. “For people to sit there and say that crap about them is ridiculous. This is a gold-standard basketball program in this country coached by probably the best coach in the country. And if you think they’re gonna fold in December, you guys are crazy. The guy can coach and he’s got talented players.
“Does he have some guys missing? Yeah. Is there a great player missing? Yeah. All this is gonna do is make those other guys better, so that when that kid gets back they’ll be better.”
Kampe knows a little something about what it’s like going up against Tom Izzo. Wednesday’s game was the 15th time he’s faced the Michigan State coach and it was the 15th time he walked away with a loss.
And even without big men Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter along with the uncertain status of Miles Bridges, Kampe is certain where the Spartans will be in a few months.
“I guarantee you they’ll be there in March. They will be there,” Kampe said. “They’re no bubble team. They’re gonna kick a lot of people’s rear ends.”
There was little flow to Wednesday’s game and much of that can be pinned on the fact there were 54 total fouls called in the game. Michigan State was called for 25 fouls while Oakland was hit with 29.
The Golden Grizzlies had four players foul out, including Lansing native Jalen Hayes, who played just 12 minutes but scored 11 points and was tough for Michigan State to handle.
“I think the single-most important factor of the game was he played 12 minutes,” Kampe said.
When Izzo was asked about the number of fouls, he called many of the whistles “bizarre.”
Kampe was far less magnanimous.
“There were 54 fouls called. I’m not a very good coach if I’m happy about that,” he said. “I said Jalen was talking to me, one of the things he said was
‘Why aren’t you fighting for me?’
“Our players were frustrated by it. I was frustrated by it. The shot (near) the end — he got fouled, so he would have had three shots and that would have cut it to four with 30-some seconds to go. And Michigan State is not a good free-throw shooting team. They shoot 62 percent. In a pressure situation, what would have happened? The game was not over.
“Now, as soon as I got the technical, it was. But I got players asking me to fight for them. What am I going to do? I can’t lose my team.”
Kampe wasn’t worried about what effect the loss would have on his team come Horizon League play, saying so much will change by March.
But he did say how much the game means in the state.
“If we beat Michigan State, that’s something in recruiting we can hang our hat on,” Kampe said. “That’s something that down through the years, seven years from now, nobody is gonna remember Miles (Bridges) didn’t play just like last year people don’t remember (Denzel) Valentine didn’t. So yeah, that in the state of Michigan, this game means more than any other non-league game we play.”