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

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oakland-UMKC thoughts

Playing on pure will the Oakland men’s basketball team gutted out a 84-79 win at UMKC Thursday night to avoid going 0-2 to start Summit League play and give head coach Greg Kampe his 400th career win. The Golden Grizzlies were playing their final game of a seven-game, 15-day road trip and the last of nine straight road games.

The win was likely the Grizzlies’ biggest of the season, including the Oregon win, because it allows them to escape the December league games with a 1-1 record and end the road trip with a victory.

Now instead of being 0-2 and not being able to do a thing about it for almost a month, Oakland is a respectable 1-1, has the Southern Utah-UMKC trip out of the way and did it without Derick Nelson, who could be back when they resume league play.

"This is just an unbelievable win for us,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe told Oakland Athletics after the win over UMKC. "You know to go through what we have gone through and what happened on Tuesday night. The opening jump ball Tuesday night, and two possessions later I looked at JJ (Johnathon Jones) and he said, `my legs won't move.' It was just a survival that we could get out there with nobody getting hurt. And knowing the importance of tonight's game. To get in an 0-2 hole would just kill us. It was a bad trip, bad idea, but when the league made changes and went to 10 teams with the December schedule, and we had already contracted that tournament we were in. There was nothing we could do, we couldn't get out of it. We were stuck. These kids deserve a lot of credit. As I told him, it was one of the gutiest, and I hate using that work being journalism major myself, but it was one of the gutiest performances I have ever been associated with."

Erik Kangas’ 3-pointer with 53 seconds left is why he is one the league’s top clutch players, if not the best. The 3-pointer put Oakland up two, 79-77, after UMKC took its first lead of the game since the 8:03 mark of the first half, and Kangas drilled it after shooting 2-for-12 on his 3-point attempts to that point. The confidence he showed to take a difficult shot on the road and just take the wind completely out of UMKC’s sail was nothing short of amazing.

“I was thinking every shot feels good and I'm going to make it sooner than later,” said Kangas, who finished with 19 points. “Coach was calling out my name so I knew that I had to knock it down.”

"He was having a bad shooting night, and he turned down a couple of shots down the stretch when we had the five or seven point lead," Kampe said. "During the last timeout, when they were down at the free throw line. I said to him, 'I'm going to you no matter what and I know you'll make it.' And they took that one-point lead and we ran a set to him and he came off it and he buried it. There's no question in my mind that he was going to make it."

Keith Benson also turned in a solid performance. Benson scored a career-high 21 points and added eight rebounds and four blocks. Freshman Matt Samuels also played well, finishing with 10 points, including 4-for-4 from the free-throw line and had two assists in 17 minutes.

Random thoughts from the game
n I hate to keep harping the same thing, but UMKC’s 14 3-pointers is alarming. Opponents now have 79 3-pointers against Oakland this season, while the Grizzlies have made 49. That means opponents are averaging 26.3 points per game off 3-pointers, while Oakland is averaging 16.3, a difference of 10 points a game.

The zone defense creates turnovers (UMKC had 13), but in my opinion it should only be used in stretches. If team’s can gameplan against it the entire game, then they can find ways exploit it. If a team can’t knock down shots then they are in trouble (see Southeast Missouri State and the first half against Cleveland State). But if a team can you are in trouble, and while the Summit League may not have the big-time slashers and dominate big men it does have shooters.

Kampe commented after the Delaware State game, where Oakland played man in the second half, that the team had not practiced man-to-man. Maybe with some practice time and some home games finally, they will work on man defense or ways to shore up defending the 3 in the zone.

"They killed us on the boards," Kampe said. "I think that (the Kangaroos) are a hard team to rebound against because 39 of their 65 shots were 3s. And when you miss a 3, what does it do, it comes way out and way high and way long and they got 22 offensive rebounds. Spencer Johnson was a man out here on the boards and they shot their free throws really well.

"They're very improved and they are a scary team to play. Their style is unique and it's hard to rebound against them. Early on in the game we looked like we were going to dominate the boards. We scored, we got a couple put backs, but as the game went on and they spread us out and shot all those 3s. I don't think I have ever seen 40 of 60 shots be threes, but maybe us playing that zone had something to do with that. I thought if we guarded them man-to-man we would have to take those big guys out and I didn't want to do that. They had a hard time guarding (Keith) Benson inside."

n I will chalk the UMKC game up to being tired, but getting outrebounded by UMKC 44-36 and giving up 22 offensive rebounds is also alarming. The Kanagroos really wanted this game and had fresher legs so Spencer Johnson’s 10 offensive rebounds and Dane Brumagin 10 rebounds were probably just a result of pure hustle. Oakland shouldn’t get a free pass, but playing after all the travel in the last two weeks has to be grueling. It’s Thursday night and I’m still recovering from my trip to Las Vegas and I came back early Monday morning. On the season Oakland has got outrebounded 338-306 and lost the battle on the boards 35 to 26 to Southern Utah.

n Kampe once again voiced his opinion against the December league games after the win over UMKC.
"I hate it," Kampe said. "I absolutely hate it. Because at our level the non-conferences play the big boys, make money, get some exposure and give kids a chance to play in great arenas. That's what our level is all about. And you're doing that and then you have to go and play two games that mean your whole life. Now they'll say that the only thing that really counts is the tournament, but the seeding in the tournament is huge. Getting the off-day and everything else is huge. It's wrong and I'd like to see us look at it and change it."

n Dan Waterstradt off the bench is looking to be a good move. The senior had six points and five rebounds in the win over UMKC. Starting likely gives Benson and Will Hudson more confidence, while allowing Stradt to come off the bench with energy and hustle plays. It’s good to see him get going after a tough start because he’s such a hard worker and so passionate about the game. If he chooses, I think he could have a career in coaching.

n My last thought is on Drew Maynard, who was back out of the starting lineup against UMKC after starting three straight games. The freshman averaged 16.3 points per game while he was in the starting lineup, but also averaged 4.7 turnovers. Maynard was likely out of the starting lineup because of his turnovers. He is a talented player and certainly doesn’t lack confidence, if he can find a way to cut down on his turnovers he will see a lot of quality minutes, but if not, he could see time like he got Thursday.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Gary said...

Waterstradt to me seems like a bench player, not a starter. I just wish at times that Benson and Hudson played with more fire-emotion, but controlled. They're not as aggressive as I'd like to see. Going to the hoop with power and passion, with a mission. They get into foul trouble and I'm not sure why, maybe it's the new zone defense, not sure. This is definitely a work in progress but I like the talent. The lack of rebounding puzzles me and I'm not sure if this feeds into my observation that OU's bigs aren't that aggressive. I think having Nelson back will improve this, or should at least. I'm sure glad the team will get some time off to rest and work on some things.

December 4, 2008 at 10:27 PM 
Blogger Dave Pemberton said...

Having Derick Nelson back will certainly help the rebounding numbers. He was the team's leading rebounder last year and worked the offensive glass. Hopefully he can return soon and be 100 percent because it has to be tough for a senior to sit at home for two weeks while his team is out on the road.

December 4, 2008 at 10:49 PM 
Blogger Eric said...

Dave,

I really appreciate the timely and extensive coverage you are providing in this blog. It is great to finally have a dedicated and knowledgeable source for OU hoops coverage. I look forward to checking in all season.

December 5, 2008 at 6:47 AM 
Blogger Dave Pemberton said...

Eric,

Thanks for the kinds words. I'm glad you enjoy the blog and if you keep reading, I'll keep writing

December 5, 2008 at 9:52 AM 
Anonymous Germane said...

Defintely appreciate the depth of the coverage you've been proficing on OU and the Summit League. Good insights on the UMKC game. I agree especially that Maynard has to cut down on the turnovers. I don't want him to get too tentative, but taking away playing time might be the only way to drill home the point. That said, Maynard is going to be a hell of a player.

Keep up the good work.

December 5, 2008 at 11:40 AM 
Blogger Dave Pemberton said...

I agree Maynard is going to be a special player. I don't remember him having a turnover problem in high school the times I covered Lake Orion so maybe once he gets more comfortable it will go away. But he does have to work on his ball-handling. Also I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

December 5, 2008 at 2:42 PM 

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