BY DAN STICKRADT
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The date Dec.14, 2010 may not have any major significance around the globe. For Oakland University men’s basketball coach Greg Kampe and his Golden Grizzlies, the date may live on for eons.
Three days after falling by one point, 77-76, to then-seventh-ranked Michigan State, Oakland posted one of the biggest upsets of the 2010-11 season and the biggest in school history, stunning previously-unbeaten and seventh-ranked Tennessee, 89-82.
Michigan State slipped to 14th after the one-point over Oakland, while the upstart Golden Grizzlies have yet to garner a vote in any of the polls.
Perhaps that may change.
The Golden Grizzlies (6-5), which reached the NCAA tournament last season and returned three starters and several reserves, outscored the Volunteers 50-32 in the second half. It marks the school’s first-ever win over a top 10 team in the AP polls since going Division I in 1998-99 and just the second all-time against a top-25 program.
The Grizzlies’ only other win over a top-25 team was against Oregon in 2007.
Tennessee (7-1), which was one of just 14 unbeaten schools out of 341 Division I programs heading into the contest, led 50-39 at the half. Oakland slowly clawed back in the game and made clutch free throws and 3-pointers down the stretch to pull the upset.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe’s team had lost to top-25 teams West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State this season, each game by fewer points than the previous contest against a ranked program.
Tuesday’s win pushed Oakland over the top.
Brian Williams led Tennessee with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Melvin Goins added 18 points, Tobias Harris twined 16 points and Cameron Tatum scored 13 for the Volunteers, who were coming off an 83-76 win Saturday over No. 8 Pittsburgh — the same school that bounced Oakland from the NCAA tournament last season.
Keith Benson led Oakland with a game-high 26 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots and led four Grizzlies in double figures. He scored 20 in the first half.
Senior guard Larry Wright, who began his collegiate career at St. Johns, added 19 points, six assists and five rebounds to offset seven turnovers. Will Hudson chipped in 17 points and nine rebounds and sophomore Ledrick Eackles followed with 12 points and five boards off the bench for Oakland.
The Grizzlies’ bench outscored Tennessee’s bench 19-10, and also held 36-35 edge on the boards. Oakland’s output came against a Volunteers’ defense that ranked 15th in the nation at .370.
Oakland shot 22-for-28 from the foul line after converting only 11-for-20 in the loss to Michigan State on Saturday. The Grizzlies, now 2-26 against ranked opponents, also finished the night shooting 53.6 percent from the floor (30-for-56).
Tennessee, which had the No. 1 RPI, used a 14-2 run in the first half to build a 43-33 advantage and eventually extended the lead to 11 in the first half.
Oakland trailed 76-68 with 7:18 before rallying back to take the lead for good. A13-0 run gave OU an 81-76 advantage and a huge 3-pointer from Wright with 40 seconds left upped the lead to 85-79.
Wright’s two shots from the foul line had tied the game at 76-76 with 6:48 to play.
Oakland, which closed with a 7-3 run, made its final five free throws inside the final 1:23.
Tennessee was held to 4-of-18 from 3-point range and made only 2-for-8 shots from the field inside the final two minutes. Scott Hopson, a returning All-SEC pick, finished with just seven points and two assists on 1-of-7 shooting.