WSU drops Horizon League opener at Oakland

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Oakland defeated visiting WSU 81-62 in a men's college basketball Horizon League opener on Thu., Dec. 29, 2016.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Oakland turned to its two smallest players to come up big against Wright State in an 81-62 defeat of the Raiders in a men’s college basketball Horizon League opener on Thursday night.

Mark Alstork, WSU’s leading scorer, initially drew 5-foot-11 Golden Grizzles defender Stevie Clark, who was spelled by 5-9 Brailen Neely. Although Alstork hit his average with 21 points, that unlikely duo helped make a mess of WSU’s offensive flow. Most telling was a nearly nine-minute first-half drought in which the Raiders went scoreless.

“I don’t think many people would put a midget on Alstork,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “We went little on him and really got after him. I think we got into him and we disrupted their offense because of it. Their points were all tough, tough points. I give those two kids tremendous credit. They hounded that guy.”

WSU (9-5) had its three-game win streak snapped. The Raiders went 8:59 without a field goal in the first half while Oakland countered with a game-deciding 14-0 run. That game-deciding run held up for Oakland (11-3) to win its second straight game.

Wright State’s Justin Mitchell (with ball) pulls up in from of Oakland defender Xavier Hill-Mais. Oakland hosted WSU in a men’s college basketball Horizon League opener at Rochester, Mich., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
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Wright State’s Justin Mitchell (with ball) pulls up in from of Oakland defender Xavier Hill-Mais. Oakland hosted WSU in a men’s college basketball Horizon League opener at Rochester, Mich., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Ahead by 11 at the break, Oakland held WSU to two points in its first six possessions of the second half and pushed its advantage to 20. WSU closed to within 63-50 on a Steve Davis 3, but Oakland quickly reasserted itself.

A preseason league favorite along with defending regular-season champ Valparaiso, Oakland was paced by Sherron Dorsey-Walker’s game-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers. It was the 23rd consecutive league game over the last three seasons the Golden Grizzlies won after leading at halftime.

“Our defense was where it should be, we were just so bad offensively,” WSU coach Scott Nagy said. “We know it’s a weakness of ours. We don’t have a primary ball handler. We’ve been playing without one all year and doing it by smoke and mirrors and (against Oakland) it really showed up.”

Alstork had three 3s but also committed seven turnovers. Davis added 13 points and converted just one of eight 3’s. Justin Mitchell and Mark Hughes added nine points apiece for WSU.

Jalen Hayes tallied 17 points and Martez Walker 15 for Oakland.

“It’s a long conference season,” said Alstork, a former Thurgood Marshall High School standout. “We’ll move on from it. … I take the most credit for this loss. I will be better and we will bounce back.”

Playing catchup throughout, WSU hit just 4 of 26 three-pointers. The Raiders also held hot-shooting Oakland to just 25 of 61 from the field (41 percent). But 21 WSU turnovers negated that effort.

“I’d like to see our team play better and respond better than that,” Nagy said. “We had been playing good on the road. Really, it’s a miracle we didn’t lose by 40.”

This was one of four HL men’s openers on Thursday. WSU completes this brief two-game holiday road trip at Detroit Mercy on Saturday. Detroit beat visiting Northern Kentucky 81-70 on Thursday.