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Inside look at high school and Oakland University sports from Oakland Press sports writer Dave Pemberton.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oakland at Green Bay preview

The opponent — Green Bay is off to a 6-3 start and is 4-0 at home this season. The Phoenix have won their four home games by an average of 13.5 points per game. Green Bay won six straight, before falling to Wisconsin, 77-57, on Saturday.

Green Bay will be playing a bit short-handed after Chop Tang left the program earlier this week. Tang started the last five games, averaging 9.0 points a game and he also played a big role defensively for the Phoenix, who are holding opponents to an average of 62.6 points per game.

Two-time second team Horizon League selection Mike Schachtner will move back into the starting lineup to replace Tang. The senior forward is Green Bay’s second-leading scorer at 12.2 points per game and started the first four games of the season before being moved to the bench.

The Phoenix other main offensive weapon is junior guard Troy Cotton, who leads the team in scoring at 13.4 per game and is averaging 2.9 3-pointers a game. Green Bay is hitting seven 3-pointers a game as a team.

Junior forward Randy Berry (6-9, 225, 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds), sophomore guard Rahmon Fletcher (6.8 points, 3.7 assists) and senior forward Terry Evans (6-5, 195, 9.9 points, 5.0 rebounds) have started all nine games for the Phoenix. Evans, who is the Green Bay all-time leader in blocks and steals, is also averaging 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks this season.

Senior Ryan Tillema, who was 15th in the Horizon League in scoring last season at 12.5 points a game, recently returned from a knee injury. He is averaging nine points a game off the bench in his first two games back.

Key matchup — Oakland’s Erik Kangas vs. Green Bay’s Troy Cotton. The team whose sharpshooter has the better game will likely walk away with the win. Kangas practiced this week after tweaking his ankle on Sunday and is averaging 20 points a game during Oakland’s current three-game winning streak. Kangas is returning to the same arena, where he broke his collarbone last season.

Cotton had just five points in Green Bay’s loss to Wisconsin and the team scored just 57 points total. That fact is a good indicator of how important Cotton is to the Phoenix offense. Of Cotton’s 121 points this season, 64 percent have come on 3-pointers so Oakland will need to know where he is at all times.

Matchup history — Oakland is 1-3 all-time against Green Bay. The two teams have split the last two years, with the home team winning both games. The Phoenix won 76-75 last season in a game where Kangas got hurt 11 minutes into the game. This season the Grizzlies will be without Derick Nelson, who had 10 points and eight rebounds against Green Bay last season. Senior Brandon Cassise led Oakland last season with 26 points and added seven rebounds. Schachtner led the way for the Phoenix with 23 points and Fletcher added 14.
Two of Green Bay’s all-time wins came in the 70s, one in 1975 and the other in 1976.

The skinny — Green Bay could be reeling after the loss of Tang a few days ago or could rally without him as a distraction. It’s tough to say until the game actually starts. Oakland will need to come out focused defensively and limit Green Bay’s open looks from 3-point range, especially Cotton.

The Grizzlies will also need to look to get Keith Benson involved early. The sophomore is averaging 17 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in his last three. Oakland would also like to see Johnahton Jones break out of his current shooting slump, he is averaging 9.7 points on 32.5 percent shooting (8-for-25) in his last three, but is also averaging eight assists in the same stretch. Look for an inspired effort from Will Hudson. The Madison, Wis. will have family and friends in the crowd and has a little revenge on his mind. For more on that see my story in the paper



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