Reggie Hamilton has a real knack for spoiling Cuonzo Martin's days.
Hamilton spoiled one as a high school senior four years ago by picking Oakland University over Martin's Missouri State team. Hamilton spoiled another one Monday by scoring a career-best 35 points in leading the Grizzlies to a wire-to-wire 89-81 defeat of Martin's Tennessee Vols.
The game was a virtual replay of last year's contest in Knoxville, a contest won 89-82 by Oakland. Unfortunately for the Vols, Hamilton's performance was not a repeat of last year's game. After going 1 for 6 from the floor en route to 4 points in the 2010 meeting, the 5-foot-11 senior hit 9 of 17 shots (2 of 5 from 3) and drained 15 of 15 attempts from the foul line in Monday's rematch.
"I thought Reggie Hamilton did a great job of running this team from start to finish," Martin said on his post-game show. "I told our guys that our biggest emphasis was you have to be able to guard your man ... really him more than anything because they feed off of his penetration."
Drew Valentine added 15 points, Laval Lucas-Perry 14 and Travis Bader 13 for Oakland, now 4-2.
Tennessee point guard Trae Golden was no match for Hamilton on this night, hitting just 4 of 11 shots en route to 12 points with more turnovers (3) than assists (1). The Vols tried other defenders on Hamilton but none could contain the Grizzlies' standout, especially down the home stretch.
After a Kenny Hall layup trimmed Oakland's lead to 62-59 with 8:30 remaining, Hamilton scored five consecutive points on a 3-point shot and a drive to bump the lead to 67-59. Tennessee was still in the game at 73-67 with 3:41 left but Hamilton scored on a drive, then nailed 8 of 8 free throws during the final 1:18 to keep the Vols at bay. As a team, Oakland hit its last 14 foul shots and finished 28 of 31 (90.3 percent) from the line.
Jeronne Maymon, who posted 32 points and 20 rebounds against Memphis last week in Maui before a sore Achilles caused him to miss most of Game 5 against Chaminade, was basically a non-factor versus Oakland. The 6-foot-7, 255-pound junior made 3 of 5 field goals but just 2 of 7 free throws en route to an 8-point, 6-rebound effort.
With Golden and Maymon struggling, Tennessee would have lost handily if not for quality play from wings Jordan McRae and Cameron Tatum. McRae produced his career high of 25 points for the second game in a row. Tatum added 19 points, including a 3-for-5 performance from beyond the 3-point arc.
Tennessee shot 40.9 percent (9 of 22) from 3-point range and 71.4 percent (20 of 28) from the foul line. But the Big Orange made just 41.3 percent overall (26 of 63) and lost the backboard battle 41-37, allowing Oakland 17 offensive rebounds. Simply put, the Vols looked lethargic. Perhaps they had tired legs after four days in Hawaii, a late arrival in Knoxville on Friday, two practices on Saturday, then another workout before flying out of Knoxville Sunday afternoon.
Whatever the cause, the Vols weren't very good defensively. They limited Oakland to 43.5-percent shooting but forced just nine turnovers, despite the game's blistering pace.
"I thought we did a good job in a four- or five-play sequence where we got the shot clock down to 5 ... 4 ... 3, then all of a sudden a guy hits a 3 or they get an offensive rebound," Martin said. "That can't happen."
But it did happen. And, because it did, Tennessee will carry a 3-3 record into Saturday's game with No. 17 Pittsburgh.