Oakland faces uphill climb in clash with No. 5 Michigan State

The Sports NetworkDecember 14, 2013 

Auburn Hills, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - The fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans hope to continue their dominance over intrastate rival Oakland, as the Golden Grizzlies seek their first win in this, the 12th all-time meeting between the two teams.

Oakland has had rough time here in the early stages of the 2013-14 campaign, winning just two of its first 10 games, while also experiencing some distractions off the court as well. The Golden Grizzlies are just 2-33 all- time against ranked opponents, and they've already faced some formidable competition this season with losses suffered against North Carolina (84-61), UCLA (91-60), California (64-60), Gonzaga (82-67) and Indiana (81-54).

Michigan State knocked off preseason No. 1 Kentucky back on Nov. 12 to take over the top spot in the national polls, and the team won five in a row before suffering its lone setback of the campaign in a 79-65 decision at home versus North Carolina as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 4. The Spartans have been idle since that loss, so you can fully expect them to be well-rested and fiercely determined to get back into the win column, and start to build up a head of steam as the Big Ten Conference slate gets set to begin just a few weeks from now.

As mentioned, MSU has controlled the series with OU from the outset, winning all 11 prior matchups, the most recent of which being a 70-52 verdict on Nov. 23, 2012.

Simply put, there are very few teams as balanced, talent-wise, and as well coached as Michigan State. The Tom Izzo-led Spartans feature three double- digit scorers in Gary Harris (17.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Keith Appling (16.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.3 apg) and Adreian Payne (15.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg), and all help the team put up 83.2 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of .487 overall, .374 from 3-point range, and .723 from the free-throw line. Branden Dawson (9.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg) has also been an effective contributor, particularly on the glass. MSU is permitting 68.4 ppg, with foes shooting just 39.2 percent from the floor, and the Spartans control loose balls for the most part (+3.4 rebounding margin) while also sitting in the black with regard to turnover differential (+3.0). In the loss to North Carolina, Harris scored 17 points, Payne tallied 16 and Appling 13, but Michigan State couldn't overcome a poor shooting night (.359 overall, .292 from long range), while being outboarded (49-38). The Tar Heels managed just a 2-of-11 effort from 3-point land.

Despite boasting a 20 ppg scorer, the Golden Grizzlies are averaging just 68.6 ppg in hitting 40.9 percent of their total shots, which includes a 34.7 percent showing from 3-point range. Travis Bader has certainly made the most of his opportunities, netting 20.1 ppg despite a lackluster shooting percentage of only .373. Corey Petros (12.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Duke Mondy (11.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.6 apg) have been solid performers as well, but Oakland's defensive effort is the real problem, as foes are scoring 76.0 ppg behind steady shooting efforts of .480 overall and .364 from beyond the arc. Adding insult to injury is the fact that OU is being outworked on the glass by 10.1 rpg. The good news is the Grizzlies are in the black with respect to turnover margin (+3.1), forcing more than 15 miscues per outing. In the 27-point loss at Indiana earlier in the week, Mitch Baenziger came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points, while Petros added 13 and Bader 11. Oakland made good on only 32.2 percent of its total shots, and was just 4-of-20 from downtown. A massive 52-28 rebounding deficit also played an integral role in the lopsided loss.

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