ASHLAND — The 12th-ranked Southern Oregon men's basketball team has faced three teams that have been ranked in the NAIA top 10 at some point this season, but tonight's matchup against undefeated and No. 2 Eastern Oregon could prove to be the Raiders' toughest test.
Southern Oregon, 9-3, knocked off then-No. 2 Oregon Tech last month and fell to a Davenport (Michigan) team that has climbed to No. 6 in the latest poll. Last month the Raiders also suffered a close loss to NAIA Div. I Lewis-Clark State, which has since spent time in the top 10.
The Raiders will look to use that experience when they host the Mountaineers at 7:30 tonight at Bob Riehm Arena, with College of Idaho coming to town for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday matchup.
"Eastern is every bit as good as (the other teams), so I think their ranking is probably about spot on," SOU head coach Brian McDermott said. "They pose a lot of challenges. They have an abundance of shooters. They run a lot of pick and roll and run up and down the floor."
Eastern Oregon is 14-0 this season, including 2-0 in conference play with a pair of double-digit home wins over Concordia and Warner Pacific. The Mountaineers have not played since defeating Warner Pacific on Dec. 1.
They average 83.6 points per game and lead the nation in rebounding margin (13.6) while ranking fifth in 3-pointers made per game (9.9).
Trent Roos leads Eastern Oregon in scoring, averaging 15.7 points per game, with Jason Mumm (12.9), Anthony Brown (12.0) and Tony Eackles (11.6) also averaging double-figures. Brown grabs a team-best 7.3 rebounds per game.
"I think the biggest challenge is trying to get back on defense and trying to stay in front of them and track down shooters," McDermott said. "Defensively, we'll have to be at our best. Hopefully we'll have enough firepower to hang with them."
Southern Oregon owns a 93-81 all-time record against Eastern Oregon, although the Mountaineers have had the most success over the past six years. Eastern Oregon ended an 11-game SOU win streak in the series during the 2006-07 season and has since won 12 of the last 14 meetings.
Last season the Mountaineers earned an 88-82 overtime win in La Grande before the Raiders picked up the season split with an 80-77 win in Ashland.
The Raiders' 9-3 start to the season is SOU's best since the 2005-06 team opened the year 16-1 en route to a 23-9 finish, the last time the Raiders were ranked in the NAIA poll prior to this year. Southern Oregon ranks eighth nationally in shooting percentage (.500), and the Raiders average 80.6 points per game.
Eric Thompson leads a trio of double-digit scorers for SOU with an average of 16.5 points per game, with David Sturner and Kyle Tedder averaging 13.1 and 11.1. Sturner and Thompson each average better than seven rebounds per contest to lead SOU.
"We're getting a little bit better," McDermott said. "I think our offense is coming along. The last few games we've been better in motion. It's taken some time, but it's getting better."
With nine wins this season, McDermott's career win total at SOU has climbed to 232, only nine wins away from tying Ted Schopf's program record of 241.
Saturday's opponent, College of Idaho, enters the weekend with a 5-6 overall record, 1-1 in conference play.
"They're more defensive-oriented," McDermott said. "They'll guard the heck out of you in man-to-man and pressure you and push you up. They'll be another challenge."
The Yotes average 65.2 points per game, led by Taylor Pruett (12.6), Rodney Delgardo (12.5) and Ben Van Lith (10.5).
SOU has only won 19 of 62 matchups between the two teams. Since a seven-game SOU win streak from 2003-06, College of Idaho has won 11 of the last 13 games in the series. The teams split last year, with each team picking up a close victory on the road.
RANKED TEAMS INVADE — A pair of nationally-ranked opponents await Southern Oregon as the Raiders will host No. 9 Eastern Oregon tonight and No. 22 College of Idaho on Saturday in Cascade Collegiate Conference competition.
Southern Oregon improved to 12-1 overall with two nonconference road victories over the weekend, and the Raiders will look to build on their 2-0 CCC record this week with games starting at 5:30 p.m. both nights at Bob Riehm Arena.
"These two teams probably present our biggest challenge so far early on in the season," SOU head coach Lynn Kennedy said.
The Raiders moved one step closer to the top 25 in the latest NAIA poll, picking up 60 points to sit two spots behind No. 25 Saint Mary. Southern Oregon leads NAIA Div. II in shooting percentage (.508) and ranks second in opponent shooting percentage (.317), scoring margin (31.4), rebounding margin (15.1), scoring (92.8) and rebounding (51.2).
The Raiders' Melissa Sweat was named CCC player of the week last week for the fourth time this season and ranks second in the nation in shooting percentage (.662), fourth in 3-point percentage (.500) and seventh in scoring (19.7).
Alexi Smith has averaged 14.1 points and a team-best 6.5 rebounds per game, while Allison Gida has added 13.4 points and Angelica Cahee has averaged 11.3.
Eastern Oregon (11-2, 2-0 CCC) ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (52.7) and knocked off Concordia and Warner Pacific in a pair of home routs to open the conference season. The Mountaineers average 72.0 points per game and have attempted 274 3-pointers.
"Eastern Oregon is a very solid team," Kennedy said. "They made a good run last year in the postseason NAIA tournament, and they're off to a really good start this year. They have some really good shooters that can knock down 3s, and then they have good inside play as well. So it's a good combination of inside-out, and it's going to be tough to guard because they're so quick and athletic."
Brooke Randall leads EOU in scoring, averaging 13.5 points per game, while Kelsea Hurliman has added 11.4 and Nicole Redd has tallied 10.8. As a team, the Mountaineers are shooting 42.5 percent this season, including 32.8 percent from 3-point range.
Southern Oregon is 38-33 all-time against EOU, with the Raiders' 38 wins tied for the most in program history against any one opponent. Southern Oregon has also picked up 38 wins against Concordia. The Mountaineers have won five of the last six matchups, including both games between the teams last season.
"They like to push the ball, so it should be up-tempo, high-scoring kind of the style we like to play as well so it should be a fun game to watch," Kennedy said.
Saturday's matchup will be with a College of Idaho team that has faced a difficult schedule with losses to NAIA Div. I programs Westminster and Carroll. The Coyotes are 6-4 overall this season, with a 2-0 CCC mark, and are averaging 64.4 points per game.
Chakala Carthen leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.1 points per game, while Felicity Jones adds 11.6. Laura Geis averages a team-best 9.7 rebounds for the Yotes, who will face Oregon Tech tonight.
"They've had a really good preseason with a couple of tough losses against some really good NAIA Div. I teams," Kennedy said. "They're back into their pressing, full-court, up-tempo style. They want to turn you over and look for quick baskets out of that, so we've just got to keep our composure, attack the basket and be aggressive on our offensive sets."
The Raiders have a 21-23 all-time record against College of Idaho, and the Coyotes have won the last nine matchups.