by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13
Following losses to West Virginia (94-71), #9 Purdue (82-67), #17 Illinois (74-63), and #8 Michigan State (77-76 this past Saturday), Oakland University from Rochester, MI finally got its first signature win by the score of 89-82 on the road against the Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee was thought to have one of the most impressive resumes thus far with wins over #7 Villanova (at MSG in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off) and against #3 Pittsburgh, who has one of the more stingy defenses in college basketball, at the Petersen Events Center (located in Pittsburgh) this past Saturday.
Making their win that much more impressive is that Keith Benson, their 6-11 leader and potential first round draft pick scored 20 points in the first half and was potentially lost for the rest of the game with a foot injury around the 9:45 mark of the second half.
When Benson came back into the game at the 5:47 mark, the fact that Oakland was in the game was impressive. They withstood a mini-run by Tennessee and went on a 15-0 run over about 7:30 minutes until the 2 minute mark behind the strong interior play of 6-9 Will Hudson, the concerted effort of 6-2 senior guard Larry Wright, Benson once he returned, and the contributions of every one of the other Oakland Golden Grizzlies found a way to knock off the #7th ranked Volunteers in Knoxville.
According to the Associated Press, it was just the second time in 27 tries that Oakland had beaten a ranked opponent since joining the D-I ranks since the 1998-99 season. It was also just the second time in Head Cach Bruce Pearl’s tenure that Tennessee has lost at home to an unranked opponent.
Oakland is a scrappy bunch and behind their strong interior play should be a real force come tournament time, provided that they can avoid the injury bug. They have the look of a potential Sweet 16 team and with the right match-ups, you never know what’s possible.