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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oakland-Southern Utah preview

The opponent — Southern Utah (10-17, 8-8 Summit) enters Thursday’s contest a half game ahead of IUPUI for fourth place and has already clinched a spot in the conference tournament. The Thunderbirds have won four of their last six and can’t finish worse than sixth in the league.

Junior forward Davis Baker (6-foot-4) leads the team in scoring at 17.8 per game and is fifth in the conference. Baker scored 28 points in the Thunderbirds last game and is averaging 22.3 point per game in his last six. Baker is 11th in the nation in free-throw percentage (88.9 percent) for Southern Utah, which as a team leads the nation at 80.3 percent. Baker has 38 3-pointers this season, which is second on the team.

Senior center John Clifford (6-10) leads the league in rebounding at 8.1 per game and is second in field goal percentage (64.6 percent). Clifford, who averages 9.8 points per game, has six double-doubles this season. Senior forward Tyler Quinney (6-7) is second on the team in scoring (13.5) and rebounding (5.1), and shoots 85.5 percent from the free-throw line. Clifford and Quinney both played for Southern Utah coach Roger Reid at Snow College before transferring to SUU last season.

Senior guard Dave Marek is the team’s top 3-pointer shooter, averaging 1.6 per game and hitting 42 percent of his attempts. Marek is also fourth in the conference in assists at 3.0 per game and averageds 8.6 points per game. Reid has started Baker, Clifford, Quinney and Marek in 26 of 27 games this season, with the lone exception being because Quinney sat out a game with an ankle injury.

Freshman Jake Nielson (6.2 points, 2.8 rebounds) has started the Thunderbirds last six games and SUU is 4-2 in that span. Nielson is a true freshman, but is 21 years old (will be 22 in April). He originally committed to Colorado State, but came to Southern Utah after serving a SDS church mission. Key players off the bench for the Thunderbirds include Cory Davis (3.8 points) and Mike Josserand (2.9 points, 2.9 assists).

Key matchup — Oakland’s Erik Kangas vs. Southern Utah’s Davis Baker. Kangas had his worst offensive game of the season against the Thunderbirds in December, scoring just five points on 1-for-5 shooting. It is one of two times this season Kangas has failed to score in double figures, with the other being against North Dakota State when he was battling a calf injury. Oakland will likely need a bigger game out of Kangas. The Grizzlies are 9-1 when he scores 20 points or more. Kangas is six 3-poiners away from the single-season league record. Baker scored 22 points in SUU’s win earlier this season, shooting 9-for-16 from the field and hitting three 3-pointers. The Thunderbirds are 7-6 when Baker scores over 20 points.

Matchup history —
Southern Utah leads the all-time series 13-9 and has won the last four, including an 82-66 victory in Cedar City back on Dec. 2. Senior Tyler Quinney led all scorers with 35 points on 11-for-16 shooting and shot 13-for-15 from the free-throw line. John Clifford added 12 points and nine rebounds for SUU, which had 82 points despite having just five players score. Drew Maynard led Oakland with 17 points, Johnathon Jones added 16 points and Blake Cushingberry had 14 points off the bench.

The skinny — Oakland (18-11, 11-5) is well-aware Southern Utah has won the last four meetings and will look to end that streak Thursday. The Grizzlies, who won five straight, are just two games away from a perfect home record and 20 wins so shouldn’t lack any motivation. Oakland has averaged 80 points a game during its five-game win streak and will likely try to control the tempo against the Thunderbirds, who average 66.1 points per game.

The Grizzlies will need more of its big men (Keith Benson, Will Hudson and Dan Waterstradt) who combined to score 12 points in the loss in Cedar City. Jones, who has 65 assists in his last five games, will likely try to get them involved early.

Oakland also has to avoid silly fouls against the Thunderbirds and keep them out of the bonus. SUU leads the nation in free-throw shooting and shot 16-for-20 in its win over Oakland.



Blogger The D Man said...

Should be a great game. Both teams have been playing well of late. The T-Birds could use a big road win this week, but it may not come at the O-Rena. Will be very tough.

February 26, 2009 at 9:34 AM 
Blogger Dave Pemberton said...


Your right should be a good game. Roger Reid continues to do a great job at SUU and hasn't lost to Oakland yet. But the Grizzlies look to be hitting their stride right now and have been extremely tough at home.

February 26, 2009 at 9:45 AM 

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