Oakland (5-8) at Western Illinois (8-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, December 27, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Western Hall (5,139) -- Macomb, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Oakland 3-0, WIU 3-0. Away Record: Oakland 2-8, WIU 3-3. Neutral Record: Oakland 0-0, WIU 2-0. Conference Record: Oakland 0-0, WIU 2-0. Series Record: Oakland leads, 25-5.
GAMES NOTES: The Oakland Golden Grizzlies will open up Summit League action against the Western Illinois Leathernecks, who are looking to remain unbeaten in conference play.
The Golden Grizzlies played their final scheduled non-conference game of the season last time out. Oakland secured a 59-57 win over Eastern Michigan in that contest on a Ryan Bass jump shot with two seconds remaining. The victory moved Oakland to 5-8 overall but was just the second win in 10 tries on the road for the Golden Grizzlies. This is the third of a four-game road trip that ends against IUPUI on Saturday.
Western Illinois won its first two Summit League games with triumphs over South Dakota and UMKC. Each of those victories were tight with the Leathernecks winning by seven points combined. Western Illinois is a solid 8-3 this year and has yet to lose in three chances at home. That's good news for the Leathernecks who play their next four games at Western Hall. The team brings a five-game win streak into this contest.
This has not been a particularly competitive conference rivalry with Oakland holding a 25-5 lead in the all-time series. Last year the teams split the season series with the visiting team victorious in each instance.
Oakland led by as many as 11 points in the second half against Eastern Michigan but a 14-3 run late in the game tied the score at 50-50 with 3:04 remaining. There were two ties and two lead changes in the final minutes with the final one coming on Bass' clutch jumper. Although Bass hit the game winning shot it was Travis Bader who carried the offense with 21 points.
Bader has been scoring at a prolific rate (20.2 ppg) because of his reliance on shots from beyond the arc. The junior has nailed a nation-leading 53 triples this year and is shooting at a 46.0 percent clip over the last five games. Corey Petros (13.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Duke Mondy (12.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.5 apg) are also scoring in double figures with Petros also filling in as the top rebounder on the squad. Drew Valentine (8.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg) adds another solid contributor to the starting rotation. As a team, Oakland is scoring at a respectable 70.1 points per game, but shooting just 41.6 percent from the field.
The Leathernecks knocked off a nine-win Illinois-Chicago team last time out, 70-54, to win their fifth straight game. Western Illinois bounced back from a slow first half and hit on 68.4 percent of its shots in the second frame to roll to the victory. Terell Parks had a strong game with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Western Illinois plays at a much slower pace than Oakland, at least on the offensive end. The Leathernecks are scoring only 59.3 points per game despite shooting a respectable 45.4 percent from the field. However, they have managed to earn wins by allowing the fourth fewest points (51.4 ppg) in the country on just 38.6 percent shooting. Ceola Clark (13.9 ppg, 3.9 apg) is the top scoring option out of the backcourt, while Parks (13.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg) is a constant double-double threat in the paint.
Although Oakland's record is less than stellar the Golden Grizzlies have played a tougher non-conference schedule than the Leathernecks. If Bader heats up from long distance Oakland may be able to surprise Western Illinois.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oakland 73, Western Illinois 68
12/27 10:34:35 ET