Game 30: Oakland (20-9, 15-1) at UMKC (16-11, 9-7)
Thursday, February 24, 2011 | 8:05pm EST
Oakland heads to Kansas City for a game against a UMKC team that is much-improved since the two teams met back in early December. The Golden Grizzlies won that game by more than 30 points, but that looks more like an outlier for a Kangaroos squad that is currently 9-7 in league play. One of the reasons the Roos have been successful this season is their improved play at home. Prior to the start of the year, they moved from the Municipal Auditorium into the on-campus Swinney Recreation Center, a venue they are currently 11-2 in this season. If Oakland can channel its early December game, then even a favorable home court won't help UMKC in this one. However, recent trends would indicate this one will be much closer than the previous meeting, especially considering the Roos still stand to improve their seeding by ending the season with a couple of wins.
The Rouse Of The Roos Revisited
When these teams met almost three months ago in Rochester, UMKC was riding high on a winning record achieved through the early part of non-conference play. The Oakland game, at least at the time, looked to put UMKC back in its place, a sign that the team had simply benefited from a very fluffy schedule (UMKC's non-conference strength of schedule ranks 320 out of 345). However, UMKC bounced back in January with several inspired performances, many coming in overtime, that have helped the team climb in the conference standings. Even if the Roos lose out to finish the year, they'll still finish with at least a .500 league record for the first time in five seasons. It's also the most successful season headed by Coach Matt Brown, whose tenure has thus far been marked by plenty of losing and player defections. It's an interesting turn for Brown, a coach who might have been another losing season away from losing his job. However, the job he's done in leading the Roos to a winning record this season should be commended. He's done it with an extremely short bench that's been decimated by injuries, particularly in the frontcourt. Senior leader Spencer Johnson has stepped in to become a rebounding machine for the Roos, and had the team had a few more bodies available, some of those overtime losses could have very well been victories. Whatever happens to UMKC from here, Brown's performance this season should not be soon forgotten. For the first time, he has the Roos winning more games than they lose, which is a big step for a program that has struggled mightily in recent years.
Key Personnel Match-Up
Reggie Hamilton vs. Reggie Chamberlain
When Reggie Hamilton transferred from UMKC, the team was able to pick up another Reggie, Reggie Chamberlain, via the transfer wire. After sitting out last season due to the transfer, Chamberlain has emerged as a legitimate scoring threat for the Roos. Earlier in the season the junior guard wasn't necessarily a featured option for the team, but he has come on as of late and is averaging 16 points per game in February. If he has a weakness worth exploiting, it's his three-point shooting as he's making just 33.3% of his attempts in league play. Reggie Hamilton, meanwhile, has been shooting lights out for Oakland as the team's second-leading scorer, and he's also been the best distributor in The Summit League in conference games. While Hamilton and his backcourt pals will have to contest with both Chamberlain and Bakari Lewis, the Reggie vs. Reggie match-up figures to be interesting to monitor.
UMKC Player To Watch: Jay Cousinard
Jay Cousinard has been a stud for UMKC this season. He gives the team an athletic presence on the wing, someone who can create his own shot off the dribble and draw contact in the paint. While he's not a prolific three-point threat, he's shooting a serviceable 41.1% from beyond the arc in conference play. Most of his damage comes closer to the basket where he is making 61.5% of his two-point attempts, and when he doesn't get a shot off, it's most likely because he's been fouled as he's third in the league in free-throws attempted in league play, just behind WIU's Matt Lander and OU's Keith Benson. The senior also chips in 6.1 rebounds per league contest. The dude should be a First Teamer when this year is over, and he's got just two more games to show why.
Oakland Player To Watch: Drew Valentine
With the seniors playing their last two games at home last weekend, Valentine didn't play his typical amount of minutes which limited his production opportunities just a bit. Against UMKC, however, Oakland will need Valentine's rebounding as the opponents feature a few great rebounders at the forward spot. If Valentine can chip in a few points via offensive boards while helping to limit UMKC's second chance opportunities, the Golden Grizzlies will be more effective at making it tough for guys like Spencer Johnson and Jay Cousinard to rebound. Valentine will likely also spend some time guarding Cousinard, UMKC's featured scorer, so the sophomore will be in a position to have an impact on the game one way or another.
Oakland has won nine straight games over UMKC dating back to the 2006-2007 season. These teams always tend to have high scoring games, though those have more often come at the O'rena than in Kansas City. As noted earlier, this game will be held in UMKC's on-campus gym instead of the historic Municipal Auditorium. The team moved its home games to Swinney Recreation Center this year.
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.