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

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Oakland-Toledo preview

The opponent — Former Notre Dame assistant coach Gene Cross is in his first season as head coach of Toledo. The Rockets are off to a 2-5 start and are coming off a 57-56 win at home over UMass. Toledo was picked to finish fourth in the six-team MAC West in the league’s preseason poll.

The Rockets are averaging 59.3 points per game and have just two players scoring in double figures in senior guard Tyrone Kent (17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game) and senior guard Jonathan Amos (10.7 points per game).

Kent was the MAC’s leading scorer last season after averaging 16.9 points per game. He is averaging 2.6 3-pointers per game this season, but senior point guard Anthony Byrd (11-for-28) is the only other player on the team to make more than one 3-pointer this season.

Sophomore forward Justin Anyijong (6-foot-9) is the team’s leading rebounder at 5.9 per game and averages 7.9 points per game. Freshman Ian Salter (6-10) is the Rockets final starter and is averaging 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

Toledo has one common opponent with Oakland in Cleveland State. The Rockets lost to Cleveland State, 77-56, in the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic, while Oakland fell to the Vikings, 58-55 in the season opener for both teams.

Key matchup — Oakland’s Erik Kangas vs. Toledo’s Tyrone Kent. The Rockets entire offense revolves around Kent, so the Grizzlies will need to limit his touches and try to make the rest of the team beat them.

Kangas, who is three points away from 1,000 career points, is shooting just 37 percent this season. But if history is any indication, it’s likely just a matter of time before he gets hot and being at home for the first time might be just what the senior needs to get going. Oakland is 3-1 when Kangas scores 18 points or more this season.

Matchup history — Toledo is 7-3 against Oakland all-time and has won four of the last five. The Rockets defeated Oakland 71-69 last season and won the game on a buzzer-beater by Kent, who had 22 points in the victory. Oakland junior Johnathon Jones had 29 points and nine turnovers in the loss last season.

The Grizzlies are 14-38 all-time versus the MAC, but have won three of their last four with the lone loss being to Toledo. Oakland picked up its first win in school history over a Division I opponent when it beat Toledo, 86-65, back on Dec. 18, 1993. Prior to coming to Oakland, head coach Greg Kampe was an assistant coach at Toledo from 1979-1984 and a graduate assistant coach during the 1978-79 season.

The skinny — The Grizzlies will certainly be glad to play their first home game of the season, but might still be a big jet-lagged. Oakland had just two days of rest before Sunday’s game after beating UMKC on the road at Thursday. The Grizzlies will have a full week to rest after the Toledo game, but may still be feeling the affects of being on the road for 15 days. Oakland will have to feed off its home crowd and limit Kent to be successful.

The Grizzlies will also need to establish an inside presence with Keith Benson, Will Hudson and Dan Waterstradt. Benson scored a career-high 21 points in the Oakland’s win over UMKC Thursday and will look to build on that performance against Toledo.



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