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

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oakland vs. Michigan preview

The opponent — Michigan (7-2) looks like it has made a remarkable turnaround this season and could equal its win total from last season (10) before the end of December. The Wolverines have two wins over top-five ranked teams (UCLA and Duke) and have one of the top 25 scorers in the nation in sophomore guard Manny Harris (20.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, four assists and 1.2 steals per game).

Michigan also features an athletic big man in DeShawn Sims (6-foot-8, 225), who can knock down the outside shot or score inside. Sims is averaging 16.6 points and eight rebounds per game, and has started the last three games after starting the season as a sixth man.

The Wolverines do lack a consistent third-scorer, with freshman guard Zach Novak the team’s third-leading scored at 5.9 points per game. But Michigan will receive a huge boost with Laval Lucas-Perry in the lineup against Oakland. Lucas-Perry, who is a highly touted point guard that transferred from Arizona, is eligible for the first time Saturday against Oakland.

It’s unclear if Lucas-Perry will be in the starting lineup Saturday, but will likely be there soon. Freshman guard Stu Douglass (4.0 points, 2.7 assists) and senior guard and West Bloomfield native David Merritt (2.8 points, 1.4 assists) have started all nine games for Michigan this season. With junior guard Zack Gibson (4.4 points) making six starts and sophomore forward Anthony Wright (3.9 points) seven.

Key matchup — Oakland big men vs. Michigan’s DeShawn Sims. A lot of attention will be paid to Lucas-Perry making his debut and Harris is one of the top scorers in the nation, but the Grizzlies should really be concerned with Sims. He is not only the team’s leading rebounder, but can score in a variety of different ways. He had 28 points and 12 rebounds in Michigan’s win over Duke and has forced coach John Beilein to put him into the starting lineup with his play. Sims is capable of hitting the 3-point shot so Oakland has to be aware of him at all times.

The Grizzlies big guys will also have to help shoulder the load offensively. Oakland needs to get Keith Benson the ball inside, Will Hudson needs to be aggressive on the offensive glass like he was against Green Bay and if Dan Waterstradt can keep up his hot outside shooting it will really help take the pressure off the perimeter players.

Matchup history — Oakland’s 97-90 win over Michigan back on Nov. 17, 2000 was at the time the biggest win in school history. But the Grizzlies have lost three straight to the Wolverines since then and trail the all-time series 4-1. Michigan scored over 100 points for the first time since 1998, in its 103-87, win over Oakland last season at Crisler Arena. Harris scored 24 points and Sims added 22 in the victory for Michigan. Derick Nelson, who remains out with a foot injury, scored 31 points for the Grizzlies, Kangas added 24 points and Johnathon Jones had 13 points and eight assists.

The skinny — Oakland is banged up with Jones and Kangas both battling injuries and Nelson sidelined for an indefinite amount of time. But it’s not time to make excuses. The Grizzlies found a way to win at Green Bay on Thursday and if they can play like they did in the second half at Green Bay then they will have a chance to win.

Oakland’s zone defense has to be active against Michigan, who will have 3-point shooters everywhere. The Wolverines broke the school record for 3-pointers in their win over Eastern Michigan last week and will have an extra shooter with Lucas-Perry in the lineup. The Grizzlies will allow a lot of 3-point shots in the zone, but if they are contested and Michigan isn’t hitting a high percentage then Oakland chances of winning will increase. If the Wolverines are hot from outside then it could get ugly.

Greg Kampe and company have worked hard to get games like this for the program so regardless of the outcome, Oakland needs a solid showing and can hopefully have a nice crowd out to support them.

"We got to play the game at our tempo," Kampe said after Oakland's practice at The Palace on Friday. "Last year, we played a brutal game against them, where they had not shot well all year and they made everything last year. I think the pace of the game was to there liking. It was very fast. We have to keep the tempo at our pace. We have to pick our stops on when to run. We have to use the shot clock. We have to defend them in the halfcourt, we cant’ give them transition points. Our turnovers can’t lead to touchdowns for them. We want them to play against our zone every possession. We got to contest 3-point shots and we have to rebound the misses."

Also check out my Kangas feature-game preview



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