Game 28: Oakland (18-9, 13-1) vs NDSU (13-12, 7-8)
Thursday, February 17, 2011 | 7:00pm EST
The Golden Grizzlies welcome the Bison to the O'rena on Thursday night for what will be the second-to-last home game of the conference season. Oakland hasn't quite had its "A-game" in its last two contests, which is something it will need on this latest homestand. NDSU is a squad that gave Oakland a tight game last month in Fargo, and despite an up-and-down schedule, the Bison remain a tough opponent. These two squads always seem to have close games in the confines of the O'rena, though Oakland has always come out on top. That's been somewhat of a trend for the Golden Grizzlies at home for the past few seasons, and with this weekend being the last home games for a trio of dominant seniors, the home court advantage figures to be as strong as ever.
In The Middle
When looking at the North Dakota State statistical profile, one will notice that the team is average in just about every category. From field goal percentage and assisted basket percentage to turnover rate and fouls per game, the Bison consistently rank in the middle of the pack in The Summit League. It's boring, really. This is a squad that is fair at almost everything, but far from elite or crippling in any one thing. As a result, NDSU has no staggering weaknesses, nor could one consider it to have a major strength. And that's precisely why the team has hovered around .500 for the season. Now with all of that said, NDSU does excel in one very important area: rebounding, especially offensive rebounding. In conference games only, NDSU trails only Oakland in rebounding percentage. Here, compared to Oakland, from BBState.com:
1. Oakland: 52.8%
2. NDSU: 52.7%
For those doing the math, that's just a one-tenth difference. Essentially, this game will be a battle of two great rebounding teams. As noted, though, NDSU is also good on the offensive glass, rebounding 36.1% of its misses compared to Oakland's 33.8% mark. When the teams met in January, NDSU outperformed Oakland on the boards, resulting in Oakland's largest rebounding percentage differential at that point in league play. To overcome Oakland in Rochester, the Bison will need to do a lot more than rebound at an elite level, but that's at least a facet of the game to watch.
Key Personnel Match-Up
Will Hudson vs. Eric Carlson
It wasn't more than two weeks ago that NDSU junior forward Eric Carlson exploded with a 32 point, 12 rebound performance in a win against UMKC. It was Carlson's first huge game of the season, which comes as a bit of a surprise for a player who was tabbed in the preseason for Second Team All-League. While the Minnesota native has been solid in recent games, he hasn't exactly parlayed that UMKC night into more double-doubles. Will Hudson, a player who could very likely end up on that Second Team list, hasn't scored as much in the past two weeks as he did earlier in the season, but his rebounding - particularly on the offensive glass - has remained an integral component to Oakland's winning ways. With Senior Night approaching for Will The Thrill, one can only hope he gets a few more touches to end his career at the O'rena with a bang. For now, Carlson will be one player standing in the way of such a night.
NDSU Player To Watch: Marshall Bjorklund
Marshall Bjorklund's best night as a Bison in conference play came against Oakland in Fargo back on January 22. The 6-foot-8 freshman put up 21 points and 8 rebounds on a night where his teammates consistently fed him the ball in the post. Though he struggled early against Oakland's frontline, he was able to draw contact throughout the night that led to some Keith Benson foul trouble. Bjorklund hasn't quite received the same kind of touches in subsequent games, but after that game we know one thing about Bjorklund: he's not going to lack the confidence to go up against Oakland's bigs. For more, I posted an in-depth look of Bjorklund's previous performance on the blog yesterday, linked here.
Oakland Player To Watch: Larry Wright
Larry Wright was Oakland's hero in the last meeting between these two teams. He absolutely lit it up from the field in the second half and put an end to the Bison upset bid. Wright's three-point shooting has been inconsistent since then, and for whatever reason he's gone away from attacking the basket as much as he did during some of his better performances in December. Even now, we never know just how Wright will impact the game, but the simple fact is that he has the diversified skillset that enables him to be a weapon in a variety of ways. With just two more games left at the O'rena, it's Larry's turn to show everyone that smooth jumper and those twisting drives to the basket for the final go-around.
Oakland is 3-0 at home against NDSU since the Bison joined The Summit League in the 2007-2008 season. All three games have been relatively close affairs: the first two wins were by a combined five points, while last year's win was by seven points. History suggests a close game on Thursday evening.
Check out the latest edition of the unofficial student section newslater, The Half-court Press, by clicking here. Additionally, you can listen to the podcast of the latest Greg Kampe Show, hosted by Matt Pocket and Bryan Everson of WXOU, by heading here. Finally, you can read a piece by Bison Illustrated on NDSU's final two weeks of the season here.
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.