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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oakland vs. Kent State preview Tournament
The opponent — Kent State (19-14, 10-6 MAC) finished in a three-way tie for third place in the MAC and lost to Buffalo in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals. The Golden Flashes won 10 of its last 12 during the regular season.

First-year coach Geno Ford likes to keep his team fresh. The Golden Flashes have eight players averaging 15 minutes or more per game and just one player, senior guard Al Fisher, averaging over 28 minutes a game. Fisher is Kent State’s leading scorer at 15.2 per game. Fisher also leads the team in assists (3.5 per game) and averages 1.6 steals and 1.3 3-pointers per game.

Junior Chris Singletary (12.2 points) and junior guard Tyree Evans (11.7 points) also average in double figures for Kent State. Evans typically comes off the bench, but has started eight games. Evans is the team’s leading 3-point shooter, averaging 2.5 per game. Singletary averages 3.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 4.1 rebounds.

Other key players for the Golden Flashes include 6-foot-8 junior forward Anthony Simpson (6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds), 6-5 senior forward Julian Sullinger (6.6 points, 4.9 rebounds), 6-10 junior center Brandon Parks (6.1 points, 4.8 rebounds) and senior guard Jordan Mincy (5.4 points, 2.8 assists).

Kent State played three common opponents with Oakland this season. The Golden Flashes lost at Cleveland State, 67-41, defeated Eastern Michigan at home, 68-46, and beat Toledo at home, 81-53. Oakland fell at Cleveland State, 58-55, beat Toledo at home, 67-58, and won at Eastern Michigan, 66-53. This will be the first meeting between Oakland and Kent State.

Key matchup — Oakland’s Johnathon Jones vs. Kent State’s Al Fisher. Fisher is an offensive-minded point guard, who was the MAC Player of the Year last season and an all-MAC first team selection this season. Kent State is 6-2 when Fisher scores 20 or more, so shutting down Fisher will be a big priority for the Grizzlies. Fisher is also known as a clutch performer, with several game-winning shot to his credit in his two years at Kent State. Jones averaged 14 points and 8.3 assists during the Summit League conference tournament. Jones will have to continue to get his teammates involved, while making Fisher work on the defensive end.

The skinny — It’s real simple, both teams would rather be in the NCAA tournament so whoever wants it more in the tournament will likely win. Oakland coach Greg Kampe said after the loss to North Dakota State he was worried because the team wasn’t practicing good, but they have turned things around with good practices the last few days. The Grizzlies’ undefeated home record will be on the line against Kent State so that could also be a motivator. The Golden Flashes need a win to keep their streak of 20 win seasons alive. Kent State is just one of seven Division I programs with at least 20 wins in each of the last 10 years.

Looking at the field, Oakland has a legitimate shot at making a run at the tournament championship, but can’t look ahead. If the Grizzlies defeat Kent State, they would likely host another tournament game on Monday. There is no tournament bracket, with the team’s being re-seeded after the first round so their opponent will be determined later. The tournament semifinals are next Wednesday and the finals March 31.



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