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

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oakland at IPFW preview

The opponent — IPFW (7-10, 2-4) enters Saturday’s game against Oakland in a four-way tie for sixth place or last place depending on your point of view. The Mastodons have experienced the ups and downs of having a young team, with just two seniors on their roster. IPFW’s three juniors are all transfer students playing their first season on the team.

The Mastodons are led by former Oakland player David Carson, who is averaging 14.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this year. Carson was a freshman and key member on Oakland’s 2005 NCAA tournament team, but left Oakland after two years because of a lack of playing time. He has proven to be one of the league's elite players this season and is averaging 17.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in league play.

IPFW’s second leading scorer is sharp-shooting sophomore Ben Botts (9.8 points). Botts didn’t even score in IPFW’s win at Centenary last time out, but he can get hot in a hurry and is a dangerous player.

Another dangerous player is junior forward Deilvez Yearby, a transfer from Kansas State. Yearby averages 8.7 points and leads the team in rebounding at 6.8 per game and blocks (1.76 per game), but he has been in and out of the starting lineup, starting nine of 17 games.

Junior Nick Daniels, a transfer from Central Michigan, is another solid outside shooter and is averaging 7.1 points a game. Sophomore Zach Plackmeier (6.8 points) and freshman Trey McCorkle (3.7 points) have started over 10 games each for the Mastodons. Freshman Jeremy Mixon (5.6 points) has been a key player off the bench and is coming off a career-high 20 points against Centenary.

Key matchup — Oakland’s Drew Maynard/Blake Cushingberry vs. IPFW’s David Carson. Oakland coach Greg Kampe admitted Carson is a tough guard, especially without Derick Nelson. Maynard and Cushingberry will likely have to guard Carson if the Grizzlies go man-to-man. Carson (6-foot-7, 220) can go inside and score, hit the outside shot and beat people off the dribble. Limiting him will be key for Oakland, but not at the expense of leaving IPFW’s shooters open. The Grizzlies freshman can’t be expected to shut down Carson, but must limit him as much as possible and also contribute offensively. Both Maynard and Cushingberry failed to score in an overtime loss at Oral Roberts and Kampe admitted they are likely hitting the freshman wall, but added he hopes this is a bounce back week for them.

Matchup history — Oakland leads the all-time series 6-3, but IPFW won both matchups last season its first in the Summit League. The Grizzlies are 2-2 all-time at IPFW, with its last win being back on Nov. 26, 1983. The Mastodons won both meetings last season, but had huge contributions from Jaruan Burrows (40 points in two games) and DeWitt Scott (29 points in two games), who both graduated. IPFW is a mere three hours from Oakland, which makes it by far the closest league opponent and a potential rival. Oakland for the second straight year will be sending several buses full of fans to the game.

The skinny — There is no sugar-coating it, if Oakland is to have a shot at the regular-season league title then winning at IPFW is a must. North Dakota State (6-1 Summit) and Oral Roberts (5-1 Summit) both won road games Thursday and sit ahead of the Grizzlies in the league standings. Oakland (10-9, 3-3) is in a three-way tie for third with Southern Utah and Western Illinois.

“It’s really important for us in terms of getting back in the Summit League race and the regular season championship,” Oakland senior Dan Waterstradt said of Saturday’s game. “I don’t think we should have lost either of those games on that road trip (last week). We had a team goal to sweep Oral Roberts this year, obviously that’s not going to happen now. Some things didn’t go our way. But going down to IPFW and getting a win is something we need to do, especially with the way we practiced last week. It wasn’t very good. The way we are starting off this week it’s kind of the same.

“We have to get guys mentally ready and back in the swing of things with classes starting. We need to realize we need to go out and play on emotion against IPFW because they are a team that’s pretty dangerous. They can get some things going for them. Some nights they are going to score 100 points like they did against South Dakota State and other nights they are only going to score 58 or 60. They are a scary team like that. We just need to go out there and play hard.”

Another big key to Saturday’s game will be the performance of Oakland’s freshman. The Grizzlies have gotten huge contributions out of their freshman this year, but didn’t get much last week in a pair of road losses. Kampe said it’s likely they have hit the freshman wall and knows it will be key to see how they respond.

“We’ve played 19 games and a high school season is 20,” Kampe said. “You play 20 in high school then the tournament. We’ve played 19. The difference is we’ve traveled across the country three times doing it. You stay in rooms and we are gone from Wednesday on. It’s starting to wear and tear on them and they are really struggling. Cushingberry and Maynard haven’t made a shot in a week. But that happens to everybody and they have to learn to get through it. That’s one of the problems for your team though when you’re so reliant on freshman. You know these days are coming and that’s what we’ve run into.”

For my preview in Saturday's paper click here.



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