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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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PREGAME NOTES: Oakland at Green Bay

After nearly a week off, Oakland (7-13, 2-3 Horizon) returns to the court to finish off a three-game road trip at conference leader and preseason favorite Green Bay (15-3, 5-0) at 8 p.m. The game can be seen on Horizon League Network and heard on WDFN-AM (1130), where "The Greg Kampe Show" will air immediately after the game broadcast.

- The Phoenix, ranked fifth in the latest mid-major poll, are favored by 11 points tonight, via Glantz-Culver.

- Green Bay, with an RPI of 41, is the next-closest Horizon League team to Oakland in terms of non-conference strength of schedule, according to ESPN, which has the Golden Grizzlies eighth and the Phoenix No. 66.

- "They have an unbelievable will to win," Kampe said of Green Bay in an Oakland athletics video. "They've got size and athleticism, they press and they pound the boards. There's a reason they're 15-3. They're really good."

- Things were much different the last time these teams met in the 2009-10, when Oakland made the first of two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances after emerging nearly unscathed from Summit League play. The Golden Grizzlies blew out the Phoenix, 76-52, at the O'rena Dec. 13, 2009. They have won three of the programs' four meetings in Oakland's Division I era, however the all-time series is knotted at 3-3.

- Tommie McCune played 28 minutes off the bench against Cleveland State, the most playing time he had received since a mid-December visit to Indiana. He scored a team-high 23 points and recorded eight rebounds.

- It's no secret Oakland is not shooting well this season. In fact, the Golden Grizzlies are just 39.5 percent from the floor in league play, while allowing opponents to shoot 52 percent and they've recorded 10 or fewer first-half field goals on nine occasions this season. Cleveland State shot a season-high 60 percent last week, in a game Oakland actually led by eight points with 7:49 to play. The Vikings closed the game on a 13-3 run over the final 3:02.

- Oakland's Travis Bader is just 15 3-pointers away from a new NCAA career record, but he's shooting just 29 percent (14 of 48) from long range — just 28 percent (16 of 57) overall, in Horizon League play.

- Green Bay has won 10 straight games, including five consecutive road games, and is off to its best start since 1995-96, when it won 23 consecutive games. During the streak, the Phoenix are averaging 18.2 points per game more than their opponents.  

- Oakland has lost 14 of its last 15 games away from the O'rena, starting the season 1-8 on the road, with its only win coming at Detroit in league play. 

- Sports Illustrated's "One And One" blog ranked Duke Mondy vs. Keifer Sykes as one to watch this week. Sykes has been tabbed conference player of the week five times this season. Sykes and Green Bay center Alec Brown have combined to take 8 of the Horizon League's 11 player of the week awards this season.
"The 6-foot-5 Mondy and the 5-foot-11 Sykes may or may not be matched up against each other intermittently, but the former is one of the nation’s most provocative defenders and the latter one of its most efficient scorers."
The post also notes nearly six percent of opponent's possessions result in steal by Mondy, who averages 3.4 picks per game. He's still second in the nation in that category, which he led last season at 3.0 steals per game.
Ironically, Mondy is coming off his first game of the season without recording a steal in a loss at Cleveland State, where he also recorded just one assist, a season low. Mondy has a steal in 56 of his last 58 games and has a career-high seven steals in consecutive games this season. 

- Sykes was lauded for his dunking ability in last weekend's win at Illinois-Chicago. The play tied the game and was later No. 4 on "SportsCenter's" "Top 10 Plays."

- The Oakland Post dedicated a feature story in this week's issue to "Pioneer Pete," the parody Twitter account run by an anonymous user.

- The Phoenix, like the Grizzlies, are reportedly struggling with low attendance, but are still drawing better than crowds at the O'rena.

- Kampe got a new hat to cope with the latest round of arctic cold. Also, he's not a fan of the NCAA's graduate transfer policy.

- Episode 2 of Oakland's third season of "Oakland Basketball All Access" airs Friday at 5:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit.

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