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Drew Ellis covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. His news and notes keep you up to date with Golden Grizzlies men's basketball.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Get used to seeing Southern Utah ... Oakland already is

Oakland took all three meetings with Southern Utah last season, beating the Thunderbirds in the quarterfinals of the Summit League tournament after playing them in a physical matchup in the last game of the regular season. With just two conference games remaining, it’s looking like Oakland could again face Southern Utah in the first round of the tournament in either the No. 3 vs. No. 6 or No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in Sioux Falls, S.D.
With Wednesday’s overtime win over the Thunderbirds, Oakland moved into a tie for third place with North Dakota State at 9-7. The Bison own the tiebreaker with the Grizzlies by virtue of the Homecoming win they stole at the O’rena last month to add to the humiliating 27-point hurting they handed Oakland in late December.
“There’s a very good chance we’ll see (Southern Utah),” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “There’s some things we didn’t do (offensively) tonight. We figure we’ll probably play them, so we’ll see.”
Kampe has insisted he wants Oakland to win out its remaining conference schedule to finish 11-7 and let the chips fall, assuming that should be good enough to earn the Grizzlies the fourth seed to the conference tournament.
Being so familiar with the Thunderbirds, Kampe already knows which areas will be key.
“They don’t ball-screen and that’s something we struggle with, he said. “They hurt us on the boards. They’re a very good offensive rebounding team.
"We don’t rebound the way we have the last couple years.”
While Oakland is in the negative in rebounding margin for the first time in long time, the Grizzlies are actually +4 in two meetings this season with Southern Utah.
Guard Reggie Hamilton was confident in the Grizzlies’ ability to tighten the screws.
“If we shore up the little things, we’ll be the team they need to worry about beating,” he said.
Southern Utah outscored Oakland by nine points in the second half Wednesday after the Grizzlies took that same advantage into the locker room at the half. The Thunderbirds shot 51 percent in the second half after Oakland held them to just 38 percent in the first.
“There were periods where we played really good ‘D’,” Oakland guard Travis Bader said. “We need to be consistent on defense the whole time. There was a stretch of the second half (Wednesday) where they scored five straight buckets off the same play.”
Kampe mentioned there were defensive miscues during the second half, but otherwise the Grizzlies’ played good defense.
It could be hard for Oakland to improve defensively, or know if its plugging the leaks, over its final two conference games at last-place teams UMKC (Thursday) and South Dakota (Feb. 25), which are both 4-12. 
It would be interesting for the Oakland to play Southern Utah three times in each of its final two seasons in the conference. The Thunderbirds will play in the Big Sky Conference beginning next season. Oakland leads the all-time series, 17-13, after Wednesday's win. 

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