Sunday, November 14, 2010

Game Preview: Oakland at Ohio

Game 2: Oakland (0-1) at Ohio (1-0)
Monday, November 15, 2010 | 7:00pm

This game pits two defending conference champions against one another. Oakland will be looking to rebound after its loss to West Virginia on Friday night. Ohio faced Delaware at home on Saturday night and ran away in the second half to secure the win. The Bobcats will be a tough match for the Golden Grizzlies as they return several key players from last year's squad, most notably all-everything guard D.J. Cooper. However, Coach Kampe will surely look to get Keith Benson involved early and often since Ohio lacks a big man of Kito's caliber. To go into Athens and pull out a win against a strong MAC team would do wonders for Oakland, especially with a week off to think about the approaching match with Purdue. Simply put, this would be a big and meaningful win for this squad early in the season.

The Tale Of Two 14 Seeds
Heading into last year's NCAA Tournament, Oakland fans had reason to hope that a win in the Round of 64 was not out of the question. The game was in Milwaukee, a close enough drive that the school would have great fan support. Pittsburgh hardly had the starpower of the year prior and looked like a team that could be upset. And most important, Oakland was clicking and had the three-headed monster of Johnathon Jones, Derick Nelson, and Keith Benson leading the way. Just south of Michigan, expectations at Ohio University might have been a bit tamer. The Bobcats went 7-9 in MAC play and had only played one game against a BCS school, a 49-74 pounding by the Pitt Panthers. Moreover, they were set to face Georgetown, a team with an experienced backcourt and a future NBA lottery pick in big man Greg Monroe. Plus, the game was in Providence, Rhode Island, of all locales. The story quickly shifts from here. Oakland couldn't get past Pittsburgh, and Ohio made national waves with a rare 14-over-3-seed upset of the Hoyas. Clearly, Oakland fans would have loved to see the Golden Grizzlies do what the Bobcats were able to do in the Tournament.

The Little Guard Who Could
Armon Bassett received most of the individual recognition for Ohio last season, and rightfully so. He scored 91 points over the three days of the MAC Tournament and led the way with 32 against Georgetown. His burst of production was enough for him to leave for the NBA Draft one year early (though he was not selected). With Bassett long gone, the MAC faithful will get to know 5'11" sophomore point guard D.J. Cooper a little bit better. He was his conference's freshman of the year in 2009-10 and is poised to contend for overall honors in 2010-11. His statistics as a freshman were unreal: 13.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. If he improves his shooting percentages a bit, there's no reason to believe he won't end the year as one of the most prolific all-around players in a mid-major league this season. In his game against Delaware, Cooper already showed why with a 25 point, 7 assist, 5 rebound, and 3 steal effort. Cooper will probably end the season with at least one triple-double, and one just hopes it doesn't come against Oakland U tomorrow night.

Key Personnel Match-Up
D.J. Cooper vs. Reggie Hamilton
Since we're still getting used to OU's backcourt, it's not a certainty that these two will guard each other throughout the game, but it sure would be fun. Hamilton is a just a bit bigger than Cooper, but they are similar in that they can score from many different places and distribute the ball effectively. Moreover, both of these guys are from Chicago so one has to think there is a little bit of Chi-town pride on the line in this game. Hamilton had a rather forgettable first night as a Golden Grizz, so we're hoping he can come out against the Bobcats and show us all what he can do both offensively and defensively. Cooper will be aiming to do what he can to make sure that doesn't happen, but Oakland will need good guard play to contend with Ohio.

Ohio Player To Watch: Tommy Freeman
This dude might not look like a basketball player, but he can straight up shoot. The Indiana native (no wonder he can shoot) had an up-and-down junior campaign, but whenever he scored a lot of points it was because he drained trey after trey. In his team's second round NCAA game against Tennessee, Freeman hit six three-pointers. He doesn't do much else that shows up on the stat line, but his 48% shooting from downtown is enough to make you think twice about leaving him open. He isn't unguardable at 6'5" and 190 pounds but should be considered a player to look out for.

Oakland Player To Watch: Keith Benson
As will be the case a lot of times this season, Benson is Oakland's X-factor against the Bobcats. It's too early to tell if any of Ohio's young bigs will test Benson, though sophomore Reggie Keely had a strong outing against Delaware with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The Bobcats also have a 6'8" senior in DeVaughn Washington who has been a solid big man in the past, but he has yet to play this year due to suspension. Just because these guys aren't as tall as a guy like Benson doesn't mean they're not able to bruise around in the post. Benson has the skill advantage here, though, which should trouble the Ohio frontline, or at least until they bring the double-team.

The two schools have played each other twice as a part of a home-and-home in 2000 and 2001. Ohio was victorious in both games. In the last five years, Oakland has a 7-3 record against teams from the MAC. During the same timespan, Ohio has gone 9-5 against Summit League teams. The Bobcats will also play IUPUI from the Summit League in 2010-11.

Opponent Q&A
We got in touch with webmaster Ted to get some answers to a few of our burning questions about Ohio.

D.J. Cooper really burst onto the scene last year as a freshman. His numbers were gaudy and many predict he'll improve on them on his way to MAC Player of the Year. But as a fan who spent an entire season watching Cooper, what areas of his game are fans looking for him to improve this year? Or what would you all like to see him do more of in his second year?

Ted: Playing at 165 pounds last year, Cooper needed to get stronger. He says he's added 10-15 pounds of muscle but hopes he hasn't lost too much quickness. This season, with Armon Bassett gone, Cooper may have to pick up more of the scoring load while trying to walk the fine line of running an efficient offense.

Can you give us a little big of information about your big men? DeVaugn Washington seems to be the only really well-known commodity in the paint? Who else is anticipated to step up this season

Ted: Washington started to show some consistency at the end of last season. At his best, he plays at an All-MAC level. The Bobcats are thin inside so he'll need help from Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic. Keely developed a nice post game last year as a freshman. Baltic has the athleticism but is still looking to put it all together.

Who is an under-the-radar player who could do some damage against this Oakland squad?

Ted: Reggie Keely is quietly developing into a double-double type player. Took some time for him to make the always tough transition for a big man to college basketball. But down the stretch last year he played with a great deal of confidence.

Ohio and Oakland were both 14 seeds in the NCAA Tournament last season, yet Ohio was able to get over the hump and win with the upset over Georgetown. What is driving this team this season after having accomplished a lot last year? What are fans hoping for?

Ted: This year's team is trying to prove they just didn't "get hot" at the right time last year and that they were carried by Armon Bassett. The Bobcats entered the MAC Tourney as a 9-seed last year. This season, the team and fans are looking for a MAC regular season title.

The Extra Pass
This match-up looks like a great early-season test for Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies will be evenly matched on the perimeter and on the wing. The game will likely come down to post play. Ted gave us a look into the Bobcat frontcourt in our Q&A above, but for a further look, we turn to the following from Mark Adams of, who previewed Ohio just prior to the start of the season.

DeVaughn Wahington, a 6-8 senior, also showed improvement in practice. He has added an elbow J to his offensive repertoire and that ability to face and score will add dimensions to his already considerable athletic ability. Washington is a big-time fullcourt runner. He can out run anybody and when he does he can finish in entertaining fashion. He is one of the best in the MAC at running the floor and also going and getting offensive rebounds. He seems stronger and more self-assured defensively. That is bad news for the rest of the MAC.

The fate of this Ohio team will be decided by the rest of the players. Ivo Baltic, a 6-8 sophomore, caught my eye with a variety of successful scoring opportunities in their intrasquad scrimmage. If he learns to guard and is willing to rebound, he becomes an X-factor. And Reggie Keely showed defensive prowess and might be the perfect complement to Baltic at the 4 spot.

In order to win the MAC this season, D.J. Cooper will surely need some help from his developing big men. In the here and now, they'll get their first solid test of the year against Oakland seniors Keith Benson and Will Hudson. While the game will depend as much on guard play as post play, the battles in the paint will be intriguing to watch.

You can share your thoughts with other OU fans before, during, and after the game at Golden Grizzly Hoops Forum (not connected to the Gameplan but a great forum to post at): Game Thread.


  1. Agreed that this should be a good test for Oakland. OU vs OU. Groce is a good coach and should make in-game adjustments if our bigs cause too many match up problems. Benson doesn't just need a big game, he needs to flat out dominate. Hudson needs to find a way to put together another productive offensive game. And most importantly, our guards obviously need to bounce back from the forgettable performance against WVU. My guess: Oakland 76, Ohio 70. Go Grizzlies.

  2. Oakland has to into the game with their heads hanging high and put the loss in Morgantown behind them. It was the first game of the season and against a Final Four team from last year. This is a game against a fellow mid-major, and will set the tone going into the Purdue game next week. Oakland needs some confidence and a win would do just that. I think Kito will get double teamed, but not as aggressive as in the WVU game. We need to shoot well from the perimeter when we get good looks. We need to limit turnovers while controlling the pace as if it was in our own gym. Oakland by 11.

  3. Ohio student/fan here, and just wanted to say this is a heck of a writeup, and looks to be a great showdown. Wanted to let you know Washington will be back from suspension tonight, so this will be his first game of the 2010-2011 season. Keely and Baltic both seem to have had great offseasons, but this will be their first major test with an extremely competent big man, and also the first game with Washington back from suspension. I think that will be the matchup that determines the game. If OHIO can keep things competitive in the post, I think our guard advantage will help push us to a victory.

    Visiting teams don't win often in the Convo. Since '04-'05, we've compiled a 73-12 record at home. Should be a very close game, but I think OHIO squeaks it out.

    Good luck to Oakland the rest of the season -- hopefully both team go dancing again this season!