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Oakland Eager To Host OU-East Lansing

by: Jericho Sanders

The annual rivalry game between Oakland University and OU-East Lansing is set to return to The Palace of Auburn Hills this Saturday. The Golden Grizzlies have been rolling thus far in the season, with easy wins over mid-major programs like Marshall-Morgantown and Fort Wayne University-West Lafayette. The Rochester-based school has also posted impressive wins against BCS schools Wright State and Ohio. The Spartans of OU-EL have played a tough schedule including close losses to high-major powers like Bowling Green and Tennessee Tech. Their lone win was against a lowly North Carolina-based school known as the Elon of Durham Blue Devils.

For fans of the two schools, it’s a match-up that is as anticipated as any other in the state. Oakland University has a history of dominating its affiliate school on the basketball court, but OU-EL has improved in recent years thanks to the aggressive coaching of Tom Izzo. Izzo is something of a mid-major coaching legend in East Lansing, a role he is very comfortable with.

“A lot of my colleagues try to move up the coaching ladder, you know. After last year’s success, there were a lot of overtures coming my way, but I’m happy in East Lansing. I like being a Spartan.”

Izzo was publicly courted by a few big-time programs this summer, most notably Duquesne, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis University. But he opted to stay in East Lansing, hoping to continue to build a program from the ground up. That building process isn’t easy, particularly with perennial powerhouse Oakland University stealing the spotlight not just in the state of Michigan, but also in the nation. Oakland coach Greg Kampe stays humble despite the increased exposure.

“Well, we had a nice run last season. Wish we could have cut down the nets in Indy, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’ll continue to work hard and take this one game at a time.”

While the new season is still young, the rivalry here dates back over five decades. It was in 1957 when Oakland University first expanded by opening up a campus in East Lansing. Since those nascent days, OU-EL has always lived in the shadow of its namesake institution. That has held up on the basketball court, too. OU-EL has never won against Oakland, though games in recent years have been close, especially when the high-major takes a trip to the Spartan’s tiny Breslin Gym. This year, however, they’ll have to try as they might in front of a packed crowd at the Golden Grizzlies’ home arena. Izzo is encouraged.

“We play these guys every year, and it’s the same result every year. But as long as we have a chance, anything can happen. We’re happy to play Oakland, it’s a fine program with a great coach. They’ve been good to us. Now we just need to steal a game from them.”

Maybe this is the year.

GAME NOTES: All-American candidate Larry Wright enters the game averaging 15 points and 8 assists per game. He’ll go head-to-head with Kailan Lucas, a guard who is shooting just 30% this season. Spartan’s power forward Draymond Green has seen his draft stock increase in recent games. A number of NBA scouts are expected to see him battle with Oakland’s Keith Benson. Benson is currently projected as the number two pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, just behind San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard. For those seeking tickets, OU officials encourage the use of its official secondary ticket market, StubHub.com. Oakland sold out its season in May.

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