Jacks fall to conference elite

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

Looks like the path through the Summit League begins and ends with black-and-gold.

Oakland (13-8, 8-0) could not be contained on the offensive end while SDSU (12-7, 4-4) simply had no answer in a 97-88 loss at Frost Arena Jan. 20.

This Golden Grizzlies win had record-setting significance. Just one season after setting the conference winning-streak record at 16 consecutive games, Oakland tied its own record of 16, and on the same floor. Except this year, they didn’t need to come back from a deficit. And two nights later, they beat NDSU to move the record to 17.

“I just talked to our team about it,” said Oakland head coach Greg Kampe, whose theatrics from the bench drew attention from the SDSU student section throughout. “In my 33 years of coaching it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, this is something no one can take from us.”

Not that the Jacks didn’t stand a chance. With 8:38 left in the first half, the score was tied at 29 apiece. But Oakland’s Keith Benson, considered a potential NBA lottery pick, seemed to score at will. He finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds while altering numerous inside shots that he was able to interrupt. All without breaking much of a sweat, and all while breaking the conference record for blocks in a career with his 320th deflection in the first half.

“Our kids played well tonight,” said Jacks head coach Scott Nagy. “We’re just not at their talent level, lets face it they just have a depth of talent, but we’ll get there.”

That talent level almost broke the game wide open in the second half. Oakland extended their lead to 18 points at just under the 14-minute mark of the final half, but stellar shooting kept the contest within reach. Two seasons ago, SDSU came back from 17 points in the second half against Oakland to complete a thrilling victory against the eventual tournament runner-up to Oakland.

“We just couldn’t get any stops when we really needed them,” said point guard Nate Wolters, who finished with 16 points and seven assists. “Offense definitely wasn’t a problem.”

Not for either team. Oakland drained 12 threes, the third highest they’ve made this season, and scored 97 points, also the third highest they’ve tallied this season. Those 97 points are the highest SDSU have allowed a team in Frost Arena since 2004.

SDSU’s offensive firepower was supplied largely from the players Benson defended. The tandem of freshman Jordan Dykstra and Tony Fiegen combined for 33, nearly 40 percent of SDSU’s point total and grabbed 13 rebounds. None of that was enough, but virtually nothing has been against Oakland, now winners of 36 of their past 37 conference games, including the conference tournament.

“We can get to second place,” said Nagy about hopes for conference seeding. “I don’t think Oakland’s going to lose but we can get second.”

#1.1918872:2838055956.png:oakland-mbb-GALLAGHER.png:Clint Sargent shoots over Oakland?s Keith Benson on Jan. 20. Sargent had 18 points but Benson?s Golden Grizzlies won 97-88.:Collegian Photo by Robby Gallagher