PantherU

Oakland’s offense pushes the pace

While it is only January, the Horizon League is approaching the midway point. Therefore Monday night’s game between the Milwaukee Panthers and Oakland Grizzlies at Panther Arena is an important one that could certainly have a lasting impact on where things end up in another month when the focus will shift to the Horizon League Tournament in the Motor City. The Panthers currently sit a game and a half off the conference lead while Oakland is just a game behind the Panthers.
The Grizzlies were not playing well at the beginning of the conference season, having lost early to Northern Kentucky and Youngstown State – both on their home floor. Their offense sputtered as they did not hit shots while their defense has been somewhat suspect for most of the season, allowing an average of over 80 points per game defensively. In Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency stat, the Golden Grizzlies are only 287th in the country. The offensive portion of that equation changed in their Saturday road victory over Green Bay, as Oakland shot a better percentage from long range (59%) then they did overall (57%).
Their offense is near the top of the conference in all of the major offensive categories. Oakland’s offense is run by Kahlil Felder who is one of the best players in the country. He averages 25.7 points per game to lead the conference and tied for second nationally. He has at least tied for Oakland’s team scoring lead in every game but two this season. He averages 8.7 assists per game to lead the conference and the nation. Felder had 14 assists in the victory over Green Bay.
Felder has a good understanding of floor spacing. He has that advantage because he has the quickness to get by defenders and get to the rim and draw fouls. He currently leads the conference in free throw attempts and he converts them at an 83% rate.
Several of those assists went inside to sophomore forward Jalen Hayes, the Golden Grizzlies’ best inside offensive player. He has 63 points combined over his last three games. Several other of those assists went to Max Hooper, who had 27 points against Green Bay. All of his shot attempts in that game were from long range. In fact he has taken 158 shots for the season: all of them have been three pointers. He comes off the bench for Oakland but he plays starter’s minutes.
The Panthers have a decision to make defensively here. You can either play straight up on defense or you can try and use guards to funnel Felder in towards J.J. Panoske. I would advise the Panthers to make every effort to play this as straight up as possible. The reason for this is because when Oakland dumps the ball inside their goal is to get the defense to collapse. Once the defense is collapsed, Felder is extremely good at finding people outside for three pointers. The long balls were reasonably open for guys like Hooper at times because Green Bay reacted to dribble penetration by sending help at the ball. The best way for the Panthers to defend both their inside game and Felder is to win a good old fashion game of one-on-one. This is the best way to limit the effectiveness of the Grizzles from downtown.
From an offensive perspective the Panthers need to be careful to not get in a battle of three-ball type of game. Oakland and the Panthers both have the ability to shoot the three effectively. Three-pointers not falling can also be a leading cause of the Panthers offense running into long dry period as was the case in the first half of the game Saturday. It has been shown repeatedly this season when the Panthers attack the basket good things happen. The Panthers need to make sure it is a bad shooting night for Oakland. They have had bad shooting nights this season. If they play good one on one defense and smartly execute their offense they should be able to take down the Grizzlies.

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