Oakland pays visit to No. 14 Iowa State

Nov 14, 2014 - 5:02 PM Ames, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones will square off with the Oakland Grizzlies on the hardwood for the first time ever tonight when the two teams open their respective seasons against one another inside Hilton Coliseum.

Iowa State won the Big 12 Conference Tournament last season and ultimately fell to eventual national champion Kentucky in the Sweet 16, after the Cyclones lost their best low-post defender to injury in the previous round. Beginning tonight, Fred Hoiberg will try to become the first coach in school history to earn a NCAA Tournament bid in four straight seasons. Three starters are back from the 2013-14 squad that advanced all the way to the round of 16 for the first time in 14 years.

Oakland lost some strong contributors from last season's 13-20 team, including shooting guard Travis Bader - the NCAA's all-time leader in 3-point field goals. But with returnees Corey Petros and Kahlil Felder leading the way, the Golden Grizzlies are poised to be in the mix in the Horizon League. However, they have lost eight straight road openers.

The Grizzlies, who finished last season with a 7-9 conference mark, were a very polarizing team. Oakland would have games to remember with huge upsets and eye-popping scoring numbers, and then fall to unlikely teams with dud performances. The latter seems like the more likely option this season after the Grizzlies lost leading scorer Bader (20.6 ppg) to graduation. Senior forward Corey Petros is a First-Team All-Horizon League preseason selection after averaging 13.3 ppg and a league-leading 8.2 rpg in 2013-14. Duke Mondy will be missed by the Grizzlies after his departure, but point guard Kahlil Felder (9.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 6.4 apg) returns from his HL Freshman of the Year season for another shot. Felder turned into a triple-double threat toward the end of last season, and was by far the leading passer on the team. St. John's transfer Max Hooper will get the first shot at winning the vacant shooting guard job for head coach Greg Kampe's squad.

With Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim and honorable-mention All-American DeAndre Kane having both moved on, the Cyclones were picked to finish fifth in the league's preseason poll, which senior Dustin Hogue called a slap in the face. A slimmed down Georges Niang, the 6-foot-7 junior forward who earned preseason All-Big 12 recognition, hopes to be quicker and more energized. Niang averaged 16.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 2013-14, while point guard Monte Morris set the NCAA record with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.79-to-1 as a freshman. New to the Cyclones' roster is 6-foot-6 senior combo guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, a transfer from UNLV and all-around contributor who was picked as the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the year. Dejean-Jones is eligible to play immediately after averaging a team-best 13.6 points to go along with 3.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game a year ago in 31 games (26 starts). The team also welcomes Northern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader, a versatile 6-foot-7 wing.

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