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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Oakland at South Dakota State preview

The opponent — South Dakota State (9-13, 4-6 Summit) enters Saturday’s game in the mix to make the conference tournament, which is in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Jackrabbits, 76-70, win over IPFW put them in a four-way tie for fifth place and one game ahead of the Mastodons, who at 3-7 is in ninth place in the league.

SDSU has been a much stronger team at home than on the road. The Jacks are 7-3 at home and 1-9 on the road this season, with their lone win being at Iowa State. SDSU is 1-1 on a neutral court this season. The Jacks have not won a Summit League road game since joining the conference last season.

The Jacks had five players scored in double figures in the win over IPFW led by 22 points from junior Garrett Callahan, who averages 17 points a game this season and 18.9 in league play. Garrett Callahan’s 2.7 3-pointers per game is second in the league to Oakland’s Erik Kangas (3.8 per game).

Sophomore forward Anthony Cordova added 15 points and 11 rebounds against the Mastodons for his fourth double-double of the year. The 6-foot-7 Cordova is the tallest starter on the Jacks and averages 10.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

Sophomore guard Clint Sargent is SDSU’s second leading scorer at 14.7 per game and is fourth in the league in 3-pointers per game at 2.5. Junior forward Kai Williams (6-foot-6) could be the Jacks best player and is the most versatile. Williams struggled early this season. He is averaging 9.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game this season down from the 14 points and 7.8 rebounds he averaged last season.

The Jacks fifth starter has been a revolving door with sophomore guard Payton Tivis (1.2 points and 1.2 rebounds) making eight starts and starting the win over IPFW. Senior Mackenzie Casey (3.2 points) has made 10 starts. Freshman Griffan Callahan (the younger brother of Garrett) is the Jacks top reserve and averages 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds. Griffan Callahan has started three games this season.

Sophomore Dale Moss (4.7 points, 3.0 rebounds), freshman Josh Cassady (3.6 points and 3.2 rebounds), sophomore Michael Palarca (2.5 points) and junior Mark Engen (2.0 points) each made two starts this season, while coach Scott Nagy was toying with different lineups and trying to motivate his starters.

Saturday’s game is South Dakota State’s 37th annual Pork Classic, add that to the fact that the women’s team is hosting a big game against the Oakland women and you have a scenario where the crowd will likely be bigger than normal.

Key matchup — Oakland’s Erik Kangas vs. SDSU’s Garrett Callahan. A matchup between two of the league’s top shooters. Both players are also their team’s leading scorers. Kangas scored 13 points and shot 3-for-10 from 3-point range in Oakland’s loss at North Dakota State. Kangas averaged 33 points a game during the Grizzlies three-game winning streak prior to the loss to NDSU. Kangas scored 20 points in Oakland’s win over SDSU on New Year’s Eve and hit four 3-pointers. Garrett Callahan scored 24 points and hit seven 3-pointers for the Jacks, who hit a school record 15 3-pointers against Oakland. Whoever has the hotter hand between Kangas and Garrett Callahan could determine the outcome of the game.

Matchup history —
Oakland is 3-0 all-time against the Jacks, including a 86-81 victory at home earlier this season. The Grizzlies had five players in double figures in the win. Kangas had 20, Keith Benson added 19 points and nine rebounds, Drew Maynard had 14 points and Dan Waterstradt and Will Hudson each scored 10 points. Johnathon Jones had nine point and six assists. All five of the Jacks starters scored in double figures and all but Cordova hit at least two 3-pointers.
The Grizzlies won their only meeting in Brookings last season, 73-72, on a jumper by Brandon Cassise with 15 seconds left.

The skinny — The Grizzlies are likely out of the race for the regular-season league title, but still have an outside shot at the two seed and an excellent shot at the third seed. Oakland leads Centenary, which was idle Thursday and hosts Oral Roberts Saturday, by a half game for third place. A win Saturday would set the Grizzlies up nice to make a run with five of its last seven at home. Oakland could very well meet SDSU in the first round of the tournament depending on how things play out, a matchup that would be tougher than usual considering the tournament is in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The key to the game for the Grizzlies will be establishing their inside presence with Benson and Hudson, but at the same time not allowing the Jacks to hit uncontested 3-pointers. SDSU’s biggest strength is it’s outside shooters, especially Garrett Callahan and Sargent. Oakland has to decide early if it’s going to defend man-to-man with a smaller lineup or if it’s going to try and exploit SDSU’s lack of height with both Hudson and Benson. If the Jacks get going from the outside early and build a lead it could be a long night for the Grizzlies. Oakland also needs to get more out of its bench, which scored just three points against NDSU and played a combined 31 minutes.

For my preview of the women's game against SDSU in today's paper click here.



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