Game 25: Oakland (17-8, 12-0) at IUPUI (14-10, 8-3)
Saturday, February 5, 2011 | 7:00pm EST
Oakland will take on the IUPUI Jaguars on Saturday evening inside Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The team is coming off a win over Western Illinois that left it undefeated in conference play. The Jaguars, meanwhile, have been racking up wins in conference play, and they currently sit alone in second place after beating IPFW on Thursday night. This is a series that has grown into a rivalry over the past few seasons, with Oakland's lone loss in conference play the last two years coming against IUPUI. Ron Hunter's squad has been playing solid of late and will be looking to play spoiler once again.
Key Personnel Match-Up
Drew Valentine vs. Alex Young
Alex Young has been a known commodity to Summit League enthusiasts for some time now, but it's still worth stating that he's having a stellar junior year. In conference games, he's averaging 20.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on 49.7% shooting. His three-point shooting (30.6%) is the only weak facet of his game in league play. Most importantly, his contributions have led to wins for his team. While it certainly helps to having Leroy Nobles scoring in bunches, Young has made sure that there was little drop off for his squad from last year to this one. He's scored over 23 points in four of his last five games, and perhaps not so coincidentally, his team is 4-1 in that stretch. IUPUI can still lose a game even when Young scores in loads, but one would think no one wants to be on the end of a 30 and 10 double-double from the junior swingman. Drew Valentine will be tasked with guarding Young in this game. He has developed into a defensive stopper for the Golden Grizzlies since the new year began, so it'll be interesting to see how he handles what will be his toughest individual opponent yet.
IUPUI Player To Watch: Christian Siakam
Christian Siakam's junior season didn't get off to the best start as he performed inconsistently in the non-conference and early part of the conference season. However, since putting up his first double-double against IPFW in early January, the big man has been on a bit of a tear. Since that game, Siakam has gone 39-of-55 (71%) on his two-point field goals and has 27 offensive rebounds to 24 defensive rebounds. Essentially, he's become that low-post option the Jaguars desperately needed to get inside baskets and second-chance opportunities. Already this year guys like NDSU's Marshall Bjorklund and ORU's Damen Bell-Holter have had career nights against Oakland by working hard on the offensive glass, and the Golden Grizzly frontline will surely get another punch from Siakam.
Oakland Player To Watch: Keith Benson
Oakland's senior center had a run to remember to finish up the month of January that included four straight 20+ point games. He struggled from the field against WIU on Thursday but still managed to get a double-double. The numbers will be there for Keith Benson, but this conference showdown with IUPUI is the type of game where his leadership and will to win becomes an important asset to the team. Hopefully Kito has ample opportunities to change the game on Saturday night inside an arena we all hope he gets a chance to play a few games in next year as well.
Oakland's lone conference loss in 2009-2010 came on the road against IUPUI. It was an absolute drubbing in which the Jaguars used a second-half push to send the Golden Grizzlies home with a 78-54 loss. OU had a terrible shooting night that led to a lot of available rebounds, a battle IUPUI won by a whopping 46 to 26.
As always, if you're interested in getting in on the conversation with other Oakland fans before, during, and after the game, we highly suggest checking out the Golden Grizzly Hoops forum: Game Thread.