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Colorado State 95 – Oakland (MI) 89

November 23, 2015

Somebody pinch me!

I thought it was 2015 and college basketball games were supposed to be played in the 50’s and 60’s.  I showed up in Moby today and was treated to an old-fashioned barnburner where both teams wanted to play fast and were fearless on the offensive end.

It was awesome!
I had looked over some stuff pre-game on Oakland and it was obvious they were going to be a challenge for the Rams.  A stud point guard in Kahlil Felder, a 5’9″ ball of fire who can score anywhere on the floor and get other guys easy shots.  Felder averaged 18 points and 8 assists last year nd in his first game this year scored 27 and dished out 12 assists.   A 6’9″, 270 lb. center named Percy Gibson who transferred from Iowa State; Gibson had scored 25 and added 10 assists in the Golden Grizzlies first game.  Another Iowa State transfer, Sherron Dorsey-Walker, who had 19 and 10 in his first game.

And then I watched Oakland in warmups.  Not your typical lower level conference bodies.  These were mature athletes that looked far more Big 10 than they did Horizon League.

So it wasnt a surprise as both teams went toe-to-toe from the opening whistle.  12-11 at the first media timeout as CSU spread their scoring among all 5 starters.  Back and forth the game went and the Rams ultimately opened up a 6-point lead near the 5:00 mark of the half.

And then it happened.

An 11th person inserted himself into the game.  A guy wearing stripes. A guy I have never seen officiate a game in Moby rena.  I recognized Bob Staffen; he’s OK.  I recognized Jon Stigliano; he’s mediocre.  But the other guy I’ve never seen.  But his whistle had lots of game as he whistled 3 quick fouls on CSU’s Emmanual Omogbo, two of which were phantom, sending Omogbo to the bench.  
Oakland used that to make a run and moved into a 2-point lead at the half when Felder hit backup big Femi Olujobi with a beautiful pass and Olujobi adroitly finished at the rim just inside the buzzer.

Whistles has taken much of the flow away from the game and it forced both coaches to be creative in how they would play the second half.

And the second half continued on much the same trajectory as the first.  The teams went back and forth until a 3rd foul by Tiel Daniles got him a seat on the bench.  Oakland used the lack of size in the paint to attack and pushed to their largest lead of 7 at 69-62 with just over 10  minutes to play.  CSU clawed back and when Joe De Ciman flushed one off the break and followed with a 3-ball, the Rams had recaptured the lead at 79-76.

Oakland wasnt going to go away and Gibson scored inside to tie the game at 83 on a beautiful shirt jumper.  It was anybody’s game with just under 3 minutes remaining.

But CSU’s sixth man Antwan Scott drained a three-ball ealy in the clock and when CSU got a stop on the defensive end they calmly came down the floor.  John Gillon fed a wide open De Ciman in the corner who rose and fired a three-ball that looked good from the very moment it left his hand.  It was.  

CSU had their largest lead of the game at 89-83 and the Rams were able to finish the game off effectively. Best of all was a miss by Scott that came from 15′ beyond the arc after the Rams had fumbled the bll at the end of the shot clock.  Scott’s desperation heave drew iron (a minor miracle) and it was rebounded by Gian Clavell.  Game, set, match.

Clavell led the way with 23 points and a career high 12 rebounds. De Ciman delivered 18 in his quiet way.  Gillon, Scott, and Omogbo joined their teammates in double figures with 17, 16, and 10 respectively.  For Oakland, Felder led the way with 23 and 10, Gibson had 18 and 9, and Dorsey-Walker had 16 with 13 rebounds.

The buzzer sounded and there were a lot of smiles. Both teams had played hard.  Yes it was a game that could have gone either way and the Rams had somehow managed to stick their nose in front with some key stops and makes from the perimeter.

And the crowd was buzzing with happiness.  Not just because the Rams had won but because the game was just flat out entertaining.  Something like 22 lead changes.  184 points.  And tons of effort from two quality college basketball teams.

Final thoughts…  

Plenty of solid play off the bench for the Rams.  Antwan Scott is scoring like a starter and really is more than a 6th man.  Guards JD Paige and Prentiss Nixon both delivered quality minutes guarding Felder, forcing him into tough pull-up jumpers and drawing a charge.  

Oakland will be a sleeper team much like Georgia State was last year.  The Rams hosted Georgia State and beat them last season but it was obvious they were a quality squad headed to the NCAA Tournament.  From what I saw, Oakland was even better and will be a team to watch over the 2015-16 season.  They play in the same Horizon League with Valparaiso, another quality team.    Not sure they’ll take two Horizon League teams but its not outside the realm of possibility.   Kahlil Felder is a force and Percy Gibson is better than any post player the Rams played against last year in the MWC.

CSU’s defense needs a lot of work.  They’re not horrible on the ball but they’re not very good right now in terms of help defense in the post and rotating to help when an opponent drives.   The sooner they can figure some of that stuff out, the better they will be.  The offensive skill is there, the team play on the offensive end is creating a lot of balanced scoring from all parts of the floor.  This team might end up being pretty darn good.

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