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

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oakland-Centenary preview

The opponent — Centenary (7-16, 5-6 Summit) enters Saturday’s game on a two-game losing streak. The Gents, who won four of five before losing their last two, are a tough team to figure out. Centenary’s 64.8 points per game in league play currently ranks sixth in the league, but the Gents have shown they can go off for 80 or more points on any given night.

Part of the reason the Gents are so unpredictable is they are very dependent on the 3-point shot. Centenary leads the league in 3-pointers, averaging 7.8 per game and are averaging 8.3 in league play.

Nick Stallings (16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds) and Chase Adams (14.5 points and 4.6 assists) both average over two 3-pointers a game for the Gents.

Centenary has six players who have hit 10 or more 3-pointers this year and average 21.9 attempts a game. The Gents also lead the league in steals, averaging 9.0 a game led by Adams’ 2.7 per game.

Centenary likes to go with a small starting lineup with just one player over 6-foot-6. The Gents start Stallings (6-1), Adams (5-10), Gary Redus (6-6), Maxx Nakwaasah (6-1) and Jerrald Bonham (6-8).

Redus averages 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals. Nakwaassah averages 4.4 points and 2.0 rebounds, but has averaged 9.6 points a game since being inserted in the starting lineup five games ago. Bonham has started all 23 games for the Gents and is averaging 3.1 points and 3.0 rebounds. Senior Lance Hill (6-7) may see more minutes against Oakland and is averaging 7.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 16.3 minutes per game.

Key matchup — Oakland’s Erik Kangas vs. Centenary’s Nick Stallings. In Oakland’s 80-60 loss at Centenary, Kangas scored 15 points, but was 4-for-14 from the field. Stallings had 26 points and shot 11-for-20 from the field. Stallings also shot 4-for-5 from 3-point range for the Gents, who shot 11-for-19 as a team. Oakland is 10-2 this season when Kangas is the team’s leading scorer and 8-1 when he scores 20 or more. Kangas has been especially deadly at home averaging 21.7 points a game, for the Grizzlies who are 6-0 in the O'Rena this season. Containing Stallings has to be a priority for Oakland. Stallings had 20 of his 26 points in the first half against Oakland and the Gents outscored Oakland 45-24 in the first half. Stallings scored just six points in the second half and Oakland outscored the Gents 36-35.

Matchup history — Oakland leads the all-time series 8-3. The Gents win on Jan. 8 snapped the Grizzlies’ five-game winning streak against Centenary. The Gents shot 52.5 percent from the field in the 80-60 win and 57.9 percent from 3-point range. Oakland meanwhile shot just 33.3 percent and 10.5 percent from 3-point range (2-for-19). Keith Benson had 11 points and 12 rebounds and Johnathon Jones had 13 points, three assists and five turnovers. Chase Adams scored 17 points off the bench and hit five 3-pointers, Nakwaasah had 10 points off the bench and Redus scored 14 points off the bench. The entire trio was inserted into the starting lineup two games later and have started the Gents’ last five games.

The skinny — Oakland is coming off a big win over Oral Roberts and can’t afford a letdown against Centenary. If the Grizzlies hope to build some momentum in the month of February they can start by avenging an embarrassing 20-point loss to the Gents. If Oakland plays like it did against the Golden Eagles on Thursday then there is likely not a team in the Summit League that can beat them.

A key to the game will be if Centenary is forced to adjust to Oakland’s height with Benson and Will Hudson or if the Grizzlies are forced to adjust to the Gents’ speed and outside shooting. Oakland should try to go to its big men early and force Centenary to adjust.



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