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Golden Grizzlies Earn Date With Tar Heels

Oakland (Mich.) 79, Alabama A&M 69

Associated Press
Wednesday, March 16, 2005; Page D10

DAYTON, Ohio, March 15 -- It took eight years in Division I for Oakland to get its first win in the NCAA tournament.

As a reward, the Golden Grizzlies get to play top-seeded North Carolina -- in Charlotte, no less.

Oakland forward Rawle Marshall shoots in front of Alabama A&M's Rickey Ricketts in the first half of the NCAA tournament play-in game. Marshall finished with 29 points. (Al Behrman -- AP)

Oakland broke open a tight game behind Rawle Marshall's 29 points and Cortney Scott's 21 to beat Alabama A&M, 79-69, Tuesday night in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at the University of Dayton.

"There can't be too many colleges who can say they won a game in the NCAA tournament," a grinning Marshall said. "We'll ride this momentum and see how far it takes us."

The Golden Grizzlies (13-18) won their sixth game in a row, including three upsets in as many days last week by a combined seven points to take the Mid-Continent Conference title, giving them a berth in the field of 65.

"If we win the national championship, we'll finally get to 19-18," Coach Greg Kampe said with a laugh.

Now they get to play the mighty Tar Heels on their home turf.

"To play against some of the number one players in the nation -- it'll be great to put your talent up against them and see where you stand," Scott said.

Oakland became only the fifth team with a losing record to win an NCAA tournament game, following Bradley in 1955 and the last three years at the Dayton opening round: Siena in 2002, UNC Asheville in 2003 and Florida A&M a year ago.

"There was a whole lot of adversity during the season," said Brandon Cassise, who chipped in with 13 points. "It brought us together. That's why we've played so well in these do-or-die games."

Obie Trotter scored 24 points and Joseph Martin added 22 for Alabama A&M (18-14), the regular season and tournament champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Both teams were making their first appearance in the NCAA tournament. Oakland made the jump from Division II to Division I in the 1997-98 season.

As the Golden Grizzlies stretched the lead to 21 points with five minutes left, the emboldened Oakland student section began chanting, "We want Tar Heels! We want Tar Heels!"

The turnaround is almost incomprehensible for a team that was 7-18 and riding a three-game skid just 18 days earlier.

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