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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oakland at Western Illinois preview

The opponent — Western Illinois (9-17, 6-9 Summit) has won three of its last six and is fighting for a spot in the conference tournament. The Leathernecks have three straight home games to end the regular season, starting with Thursday’s game against Oakland.

Leading scorer David DuBois (17.9 points and 5.8 rebounds) hit two free throws with five seconds left to secure Western Illinois’ 55-54 win at Centenary last Saturday. DuBois missed the Leathernecks’ three-point loss at Oral Roberts with an ankle injury.

Western Illinois has been starting a four-guard lineup of DuBois, Josh Rivers (10.1 points, 1.8 3-pointers) David Nurse (8.6 points, 1.7 3-pointers) and Tommie Tyler (3.5 points). James Granstra (6-foot-10) is the lone forward and averages 2.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

Ceola Clark (6.6 points) is the leading scorer off the bench, with Quenton Kirby (6.2 points and 3.1 rebounds) and Rodney Williams Jr. (4.2 points) also key contributors.

Western Illinois would be the seven seed if the tournament were to start today and is a half game ahead of IPFW and Centenary.

Key matchup —
Oakland’s Will Hudson vs. Western Illinois’ David DuBois. Oakland held DuBois to 12 points last time and rolled to a 40-point win. DuBois averages 19.5 points a game at home where the Leathernecks are 5-3. At 6-foot-9 Hudson will have the height advantage and will have to make DuBois work on the defensive end or Oakland may have to go with a smaller lineup. If Hudson can limit DuBois then Western Illinois will have a tough time beating the Golden Grizzlies. If DuBois has a big game then the Leathernecks could get the W.

Matchup history — Oakland has won five straight, including a 86-46 win back on Jan. 24. Erik Kangas led the way with 27 points and Keith Benson added 24 points and 12 rebounds. The Grizzlies lead the all-time series 19-4 and have a seven-game win streak at WIU’s Western Hall. Oakland’s last defeat in Macomb, Ill. was on Feb. 3, 2001. The Grizzlies beat the Leathernecks three times last season, including in the first round of the Summit League tournament.

The skinny — Oakland is just 2-5 on the road in conference play and can use this final road trip to build some confidence on the road, especially the younger players. The conference tournament is technically on a neutral floor, but if Oakland faces South Dakota State or North Dakota State at the tournament it will have the feel of a road game. The Grizzlies also still have a shot at the second seed and the off day that comes with it. Oakland trails Oral Roberts by two games with four games left so a loss will likely put Oakland out of the race for second and possibly open the door for Southern Utah to steal the third seed.

Western Illinois will likely come out inspired because it is playing for its conference tournament life and will also want to avenge the 40-point shellacking in Rochester. Oakland will have to weather that initial storm and try to get off to a good start. Establishing Benson and Hudson inside early against the smaller Leathernecks will also be important.



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