It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for OU men’s basketball team.
OU was the preseason favorite to win the Mid-Con Conference but finished in eighth place. The Golden Grizzlies vowed to redeem themselves in the Mid-Con tournament, but it never came to be.
Valparaiso University defeated OU 73-64 in the first round.
The reason for the loss is no surprise. It has been the Grizzlies Achilles’ heel all year long: free throw shooting. OU shot a dismal 10-22 from the free-throw line for the game, including 3-11 in the second half. Meanwhile, Valpo shot 20-27 from the line for a respectable 74 percent.
“You look at the stat sheet and you wonder how we lost,” OU head coach Greg Kampe said. “It’s pretty obvious; the same thing that happened to us all year long. Inability to make free throws.
“We had one more field goal than them. They had one more three. Yet they have an easy win because of the free throw line. You can analyze it all you want but those are some pretty telling statistics.”
Both teams started off slow. OU struck first when senior guard Mike Helms hit a jumper two minutes into the game. Valpo then went on a 8-0 run. OU pulled back within two, 14-12, when Helms scored with 7:11 left in the first half.
The turning point of the first half came with 2:07 left, when Helms was called for his third foul and upset with the call, picked up a technical foul that was also his fourth personal. Valpo capitalized, hitting all four free throws to take a 28-17 lead.
With Helms on the bench, OU needed someone to step up and junior forward Rawle Marshall did just that. Marshall scored the Grizzlies’ last 10 points to pull them within five, 32-27, to end the first half.
Neither team started off the second half hot. Valpo was up nine 44-35 with 15:09 left to play when Helms, with his four fouls, checked back into the OU lineup. Helms hit a quick three to pull OU within six, but Valpo then went on an 11-0 run taking a 55-38 lead with 11:26 left.
The two teams traded baskets, but with 5:14 left Helms picked up his fifth foul with Valpo up 64-53. With Helms watching from the sidelines, OU could not overcome Valpo's lead losing, 73-64.
“Disappointed. That’s the only word that can describe how I feel,” Helms said. “And I’m sure that’s the only way to describe how the team feels and the coaches feel.”
Helms was upset with having to finish his career from the bench, but did not blame the officials for the team’s performance or the loss.
“They missed a lot of calls but made a lot of good calls,” said Helms. “You can’t hold the refs accountable. They are human, too. We don’t make every shot and they don't make every call.”
Helms, OU’s second all-time leading scorer, said he was happy with his decision to attend OU but he was not happy with the way his college career played out.
“All the accolades and everything you can throw all that out the window,” Helms said. “I think players are made when they win championships. As far as my career, individually it has been alright, but collectively as a team it has been disappointing.”
Kampe was happy with his team’s effort. He said he felt the team played hard, didn’t quit and did all the things a coach would want a team to do in the last game of the year. However, it wasn’t enough to save OU’s season with a tournament win.
“We didn’t have a good season. We had a very disappointing season,” Kampe said. “There isn’t anyone who wears an Oakland uniform who wouldn’t stand up and say that.”
The loss was also the last for seniors Kelly Williams, forward, and Jordan Sabourin, center, who were both playing their best basketball of the season the last few weeks.
Marshall led OU with 20 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Helms added 16 points and six rebounds. Junior forward Cortney Scott finished with eight points and five assists, but shot 0-7 from the free-throw line.
OU finished the season 13-17 overall. Kampe said he is confident that OU can turn things around for next year.
He said he was afraid to tear things down and start over during the season, but also said, now that the season is over, her can start that process.
OU’s men’s basketball team made a statement in its last regular season game by defeating Western Illinois University 88-59 Saturday night at the ‘O’rena.
It was seniors Mike Helms, Kelly Williams and Jordan Sabourin’s last home game and they made sure to go out with a bang.
After the first 10 minutes, the game became a rout, but that didn’t mean it lacked excitement. OU put on a display normally only seen at dunk contests. Five Golden Grizzlies connected on alley-oop dunks that ignited the crowd.
The award for the dunk of the night, however, goes to senior guard Mike Helms. It happened when junior guard DeMarcus Ishmeal bounced the ball off the backboard and Helms jumped between two defenders to grab the ball and slam it home.
“I’ve seen Mike do some crazy things in the air, but at that time of the game with all the emotion and what this game meant to us, I didn’t know how to react,” Williams said.
Helms and Williams played arguably their best games of the season.
Helms finished with a game-high 32 points. Helms also had two steals and shot a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line. Williams added 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
OU also had good contributions from junior guard Rawle Marshall, who finished with 13 points, and junior forward Cortney Scott, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Head coach Greg Kampe said he was happy with the way his team played and defended extremely well.
OU forced 26 Western Illinois turnovers including 15 steals. However Kampe said he still has some concerns going into the Mid-Con tournament.
“We still have got to make free throws,” Kampe said. “My dad told me when I was young that there are two things in life that don’t last – dogs that chase cars and teams that don’t make free throws, and that’s the truth.”
OU will go into the Mid-Con tournament as the eighth seed after being predicted by almost every expert to win the Mid-Con regular season title. Things could have been different had OU finished out five very close games that were lost either in overtime or on the last possession.
“There are some angry, young Oakland men going there to prove a point,” Kampe said. “And we’re going there and we’re playing the best team.”
The winner of the Mid-Con tournament will represent the conference in the NCAA Championship Tournament. It will be Helms’ and the other seniors last chance to make it to the “Big Dance.”
“Tournaments are all about who can have the most runs and stop the other team from having them,” Helms said. “Defense creates easy shots so when we get easy shots our whole rhythm changes and the whole momentum of the game changes.”
The entire OU team was wearing headbands for the regular season finale. A decision Williams said they made as a team.
OU will begin the Mid-Con tournament this Sunday at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.
OU’s first round opponent was unknown at this issue’s deadline.
By Dave Pemberton
Having a good three-point shooter always makes a team hard to defend. Having two like OU’s sophomore duo of Jayme Wilson and Anne Hafeli makes it even harder.
The pair has combined for more than 85 three pointers so far this season. Wilson is top in the Mid-Con averaging 2.5 threes a game. Hafeli is in the top 15 averaging 1.3 threes a game.
“You need good three-point shooters to be successful,” said head coach Eileen Shea-Hilliard. “It helps spread the defense out. These two have been my most consistent shooters.”
Wilson and Hafeli have their great shooting skills in common, but that is where the comparison ends. They are two different players that took very different paths to OU.
Growing up in Shawnee, Kan., Wilson was a McDonald’s All-American nominee her senior year of high school. She was recruited by countless Division I schools, but saw something special in OU.
“I never heard of Oakland until I got a FedEx package the first day that teams are allowed to start recruiting,” Wilson said. “I liked the area and that I could come in and contribute.”
Wilson did just that by averaging 15.5 points a game and making the 2003 Mid-Con All-Tournament team her freshman year. Wilson is currently leading the Mid-Con in scoring this season, averaging 15.3 points per game.
Hafeli, on the other hand, did not have to travel as far to get to OU.
She attended Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills where she was a three sport athlete. She played varsity basketball, volleyball and soccer all four years. After high school, Hafeli decided that basketball was her game.
“I ended up liking basketball the most, because it’s more of a team game,” Hafeli said.
Shooting more than 84 percent from the free-throw line, Hafeli is a free-throw specialist for OU. She credits her success to lots of practice.
“I always make ten in a row before every game and practice,” Hafeli said. “It’s kind of a ritual.”
The young duo were roommates their freshman year, but are rooming separately this year. They are much closer on the court this year, however.
“With us having a little bit of a leadership role this year, we have gotten to be better friends,” said Wilson. “I feel like I understand her better.”
Shea-Hilliard says Wilson and Hafeli are quiet but they do lead by example. She also said the duo is very competitive, but not with each other.
“I don’t think there is a competition between them because they are two different players,” Shea-Hilliard said. “I think it is more internal competition because they are both very driven. They are the perfectionist type.”
While Wilson and Hafeli have not decided majors yet, they have created major problems for opposing defenses and should only continue to improve.
“They have shown they can play as freshman and sophomores,” Shea-Hilliard said. “I’m looking forward to them being juniors and seniors.”