Oakland played just one game this week, an 86-68 win at IPFW on Saturday. While IPFW gained the lead early in the second half, OU was able to go on a big run that put the game out of reach. The win left Oakland alone as the first place team in the conference, with the closest teams two games behind in the standings. While Reggie Hamilton had a huge night (31 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists), it was the team's depth that helped them prevail. Four players were in double figures, including freshman Ryan Bass (career-high 11 points). Even without Ledrick Eackles and with a recovering Larry Wright, Oakland has been a tough out in The Summit League. Such a trait should continue to come in handy as the season rolls on.
Comparing Two 7-0 Starts
After losing to Oakland, IPFW coach Dane Fife had some glowing words for this year's Golden Grizzlies team, calling them an "unbelievable team" and that folks might not see "another [one] like this in 30 years, they're that good." So just how good is this year's team? Well, to begin with, we can compare this year's installment to last year's version that also started league play 7-0. Up until this point in both seasons, each squad had faced the same set of teams in the same situations (at home vs. on the road), although the dates of the games are not exact. So with that said, let's compare the scoring and defensive output from both years through the first seven conference games:
The table presents the data in both possession-based, which adjusts for the tempo of the game, and standard form. The standard "Points For" and "Points Against" measures reveal that Oakland has been scoring more points while giving up just a few tenths of a point more in conference games this season versus last season. Overall, the team has a scoring difference that is 3.6 points higher than last year. This revelation holds up on the more reliable side of the table featuring the possession-based stats. Here we can see that Oakland is in fact scoring .05 more points per possession this season, a point that showcases just how explosive the offense has been in 2010-11. On the defensive end, the points allowed per possession measure reveals that Oakland's defense is actually a bit better than it was last season. When combined, Oakland's efficiency difference checks in at a whopping .30 this season. While the challenging Dakota trip looms, it's safe to say that this year's team is indeed performing at a higher level than last year's squad at this point in the conference schedule.
Ryan Bass: Flashes Of Scoring Ability
Freshman Ryan Bass has remained a bit of an enigma this season due to limited opportunities for playing time. He's the youngest player in a fairly loaded backcourt, yet he has given us some idea as to what he can offer in his brief appearances. With Eackles hurt and Wright nursing an ankle injury, we have seen a bit more of Bass in recent games, though he has typically been a pass-first point guard, opting to get his teammates involved instead of looking for his own shot. However, with Travis Bader and Drew Valentine in foul trouble against IPFW, Bass played some major minutes in the second half and did not disappoint. He was 3 of 4 from the field and 4 of 4 from the free throw line for 11 points in just 15 minutes of play. Bass did not have any assists, which is a bummer considering how well he can dish it, but it was great to finally see some flashes of the freshman's scoring ability.
The Most Old-Fashioned Names Ever
One of the conference's breakout sophomores this season has been IPFW's Frank Gaines. The athletic guard did not disappoint against Oakland as he went off for 17 points and 11 rebounds. While his game is great, he might have an even better name. It's not often one comes across a young dude named "Frank." However, Oakland's team might take the cake in terms of old-fashioned names. There are plenty of examples on the surface, names such as "Keith" and "Larry," but when digging deeper on the player pages, we find some more surprises. As a collective, half of the Oakland roster could have doubled as characters on The Brady Bunch, and no one would have missed a beat.
And who knows, maybe Ilija is a very traditional name in Serbia! While we're sure guys like Reggie Hamilton, Drew Valentine, and Travis Bader won't be having Kevin Beers announce them by their true first names, it's at least a bit humorous to see the real names behind some of the faces. Using these, if there was an award for most likely team to have played in the 1950s, Oakland might just compete for top honors!
"Free Ilija" Watch
Ilija logged just five minutes in Oakland's win over IPFW, his lowest total since the Oral Roberts game at the end of December. Never fear, though, as both Keith Benson and Will Hudson logged a lot of minutes while staying out of foul trouble in the game. Ilija missed both of his attempts in his short stint on Saturday, but we hope the junior's confidence doesn't sway as he will more than likely be needed during next week's trip to the Dakotas.
Non-Keith Benson Stud Of The Week: Reggie Hamilton
A weekly shoutout to the best Golden Grizzly not named Keith Benson.
Reggie Hamilton had his biggest scoring night as a Golden Grizzly against IPFW, and he did it despite struggling from beyond the arc. However, the junior guard used this game as an opportunity to show just how great he can be in the dribble-drive as he went 7 of 8 on his two-point attempts and was a perfect 11 of 11 from the charity stripe. Those are some impeccable totals for the 5-foot-11 guard that are propped up further when one considers he also chipped in 6 rebounds and 5 assists in a team-high 38 minutes on the court. Hamilton has proven effective from all over the court and continues to be one of the most exciting players to watch when he's in his zone.
Top Play Of The Week
It was a moment that has been long-awaited: an in-game dunk from Ryan Bass. Although he stands at just 5-foot-10, the freshman guard can levitate with the best of them, and he finally got a chance to display his "ups" on a fastbreak against IPFW that he initiated with a steal. Just watch this and get pumped:
The Golden Grizzlies continue their string of road games with an always tough trip to the Dakotas next week. While both SDSU and NDSU have dropped some games in conference play, they are nonetheless solid squads capable of knocking off Oakland. One positive is that the team should be plenty rested after only playing one game in the last week.