In Play! Magazine
For the first time all year, fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills got a chance to witness a great basketball game. 17,000 fans packed the seats to witness the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans take on host Oakland University Golden Grizzlies.
The contest featured all of the elements one could ask for in an ideal collegiate setting. It consisted of players with NBA-caliber talent, two extremely passionate fanbases and two of the most knowledgeable, experienced coaches in all of college basketball.
The underdog Golden Grizzlies hung with the Spartans the entire game, but MSU prevailed 77-76. Oakland, a D-1 program, is trying to prove itself that it can compete against the Top 25 teams in the country.
"We're that close," says Greg Kampe, OU Head Coach. "It's really disappointing that we couldn't get this win.
"I told (my players) 'Everybody's gonna pat you on the back...that's crap. They have one more point than we do. We came to win.'"
Despite the tough loss, OU remains confident it can compete with any team in the country.
"The difference between this team this year and the team last year is...we're better," Kampe says. "We're more mature. We've been there. We've played these games. We're not intimidated. The (Michigan State logo) didn't intimidate us at all."
The Spartans, consistently amongst the top programs in the country, weren't surprised by how difficult it was to escape the Palace with a win.
"I thought we played awfully well," says Tom Izzo, MSU Head Coach. "I really did. I think you've got to give a lot of credit to Oakland. We did everything we wanted to do...we did a lot of good things today, and all that being said, Oakland played a hell of a game."
The game featured a battle between two players expected to be selected in the 2011 NBA Draft this summer. MSU guard Kalin Lucas is considered amongst the top players in the Big Ten, while OU center Keith Benson has shown he can compete against the best big men in the nation. Both players could be available to the Pistons as a potential second-round pick.
Meanwhile, both teams are bracing themselves for a competitive season with a chance at making some noise come March.
"If you ask me, Oakland is gonna be an NCAA team," Izzo says. "I think it's the best team (Kampe's) had...Greg Kampe's a very good coach. He has a unique way about him. I think he's getting a little more animated...but I like the way he's handling this team."
"This is it," Kampe says. "We're ready. This is the time."
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