On Wednesday night, the Oakland Grizzlies traveled to face the No. 5 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. On paper, the game looked like it might be a one-sided affair, but Oakland was able to put up quite a fight. In the second half, Oakland faded a little bit, but nonetheless, the Grizzlies held up well and showed that the team could hang with a very good team on the road in a tough environment.
Early on in the game, the Grizzlies came out firing. In fact, Oakland grabbed a slim lead for the first four minutes or so of the game and either led or were within a score for the vast majority of the first half. At halftime, Oakland led 29-28. The odds were certainly still in Virginia's favor, but the battle was on.
In the second half, Virginia came out firing and quickly jumped out to a decent lead. By the 15:40 mark, the Cavaliers had a 41-31 lead and looked to be in position to cruise to a win. Anthony Gill and Darius Thompson made some big buckets and by about 7:28 mark, Virginia had a twenty point lead. For the remainder of the game, Virginia kept it at about a 15 point margin and Oakland was never able to close the gap.
All told, Virginia won by a final score of 71-58.
Despite the loss, Oakland did get some big performances. In particular, Kahlil Felder had another big game. Overall, Felder finished with 30 points, three assists, and one steal. Along with Felder, Max Hooper finished with nine points and Sherron Dorsey-Walker finished with five points and four rebounds.
For Oakland, this certainly isn't a crushing loss by any means. After all, losing on the road to a top five team is nothing to be ashamed about. Plus, it certainly won't be a big hit to the resume. Overall, the Grizzlies are now 8-5 heading into non-conference play and look primed to make a postseason run. The team doesn't have any huge wins, but this undoubtedly looks like a team that will make some noise in the Horizon League.
Now, the Grizzlies will get underwhelming Cleveland State and Youngstown State teams at home before a big showdown with Valparaiso at home on January 8th. Undoubtedly, Oakland and Valpo appear to be the top teams in the Horizon League, so that matchup could provide a lot of insight into how the conference race might unfold over the coming months.
All told, this was a tough loss for Oakland, especially with how well the team played early on. However, it's nowhere near a crushing blow for this squad and could prepare the team for some challenging road games ahead. Additionally, the team once again showed that it can hang with a top five team for at least a good portion of a game. That's certainly not something that should easily be overlooked.
The Grizzlies may not be a perfect team, but with Kahlil Felder, it has a chance each and every night.