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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Oakland-UMKC preview

The opponent — UMKC (7-23, 3-14 Summit) come into Saturday’s game playing for nothing but pride. The Kangaroos will miss the conference tournament for the first time since joining the Summit League. UMKC has lost 11 of its last 12 and is 0-8 on the road in league play (2-13 overall).

The Kangaroos will likely start three freshman (Dustin Dibble, Latreze Mushatt and Trey McKinney-Jones) and two sophomores (Spencer Johnson and Bakari Lewis) against Oakland.

Leading scorer Dane Brumagin (15.3 per game) has been battling a sore Achilles’ and has missed three games and played six minutes or less in three others in UMKC’s last seven games, with the lone exception being when he scored 16 points in 24 minutes on UMKC's senior night. Brumagin will likely play limited minutes Saturday, but he is a deadly shooter that can get hot in a hurry.

The Kangaroos are also without second leading scorer Reggie Hamilton (12.6 points, 3.6 assists), who asked and was granted his release from his scholarship back in January.

Lewis, a transfer from Nicholls State who sat out UMKC’s first 10 games, has stepped as of late. Lewis (6-foot-1) has started the last seven games and averaged 15 points a game over that span. He is averaging 10.5 points and 2.5 assists on the season. Lewis has the third most 3-pointers (22 in 19 games) on the team behind Brumagin (52) and Hamilton (34).

Mushatt, who graduated from Saginaw Arthur Hill, is averaging 12 points a game in his last 11. The 6-5 freshman is averaging 5.6 rebounds on the season and has started 24 games.

Johnson (6-foot-6) is the team’s leading rebounder at 6.6 per game and is averaging 10.3 points per game. Johnson is the second tallest player on the team behind 6-7 sophomore James Humphrey (3.7 points, 3.0 rebounds).

Dibble is also a Michigan native and graduated from Petoskey High School. He made his second start since Dec. 28 on Thursday at IPFW and scored a career-high 15 points on 5 for 8 shooting.

Key matchup — Oakland’s Keith Benson vs. UMKC’s Spencer Johnson. Benson and Johnson both had big games in the first meeting between these two schools. Benson finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Johnson had 20 points and 13 rebounds. These two will likely battle on the boards once again. Benson has a five-inch height advantage, but Johnson will try to counter with his quickness. Oakland will likely try to feed Benson and Will Hudson early and often, so Benson could be in for a big day.

Matchup history — Oakland leads the all-time series 17-6 and has won the last four meetings. UMKC is 2-8 all-time at O’Rena with its last win being in 2006. The Grizzlies won a tight one, 84-78, back on Dec. 4 earlier this season. Kangas scored 19 points for Oakland and hit a key 3-pointer with 52 seconds left to give the Grizzlies the lead for good. Johnathon Jones had 12 points and six assists and freshman Matt Samuels had a career-high 10 points. Brumagin led UMKC with 29 points, including five 3-pointers and Hamilton added 15 points and nine assists.

The skinny — Oakland clearly has more to play for with a chance at a perfect home record for the first time in school history and its first 20-win season since turning Division I. Oakland coach Greg Kampe said he’s excited about the opportunity to hit both milestones.

“I think those are milestones, you strive to get those,” Kampe said after practice Friday. “To have a chance to do that, I think is really important for our program, especially when you look at who we play. That’s the big thing. We have 55 wins over the last three years and look at who we play, six or seven BCS schools a year. This year 13 of our first 15 games were away from the O’Rena, not at home. I think it’s quite a milestone.

“I think one of the things that you judge a program on and if you look around the country and see the programs that are really good, they always have a long homecourt winning streak. I think that’s important. Ours is at 12 right now, we have a chance to get it to 13. All programs that are running and going in the right direction, you look at that’s something they usually have. To finally get something like that just puts you in that group and I think that’s important. This is year 10 of Division I and it’s time to have milestones like that. I’m excited about it. I think 20 wins is big.”

The Grizzlies also have a chance to enter the league tournament on a seven-game win streak, which would be the second longest win streak in school history. Seniors Kangas, Dan Waterstradt and Ricky Bieszki will all start and be playing their final regular-season home games. Look for all three to give an inspired effort and for the underclassmen to follow their lead.



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