ASHLAND — The 21st-ranked Southern Oregon men's basketball team opens the second half of the Cascade Collegiate Conference season east of the mountains, taking on College of Idaho today before heading to La Grande on Saturday for a rematch with top-ranked Eastern Oregon.
Southern Oregon (15-5, 7-2 CC) is tied with No. 15 Northwest for third place in the CCC standings behind No. 1 Eastern Oregon and No. 8 Warner Pacific (both 8-1). The Raiders dropped seven spots in the latest poll after splitting last weekend's home games, losing 82-73 to Northwest after taking down Evergreen 77-70.
"This is traditionally one of the tougher trips in the league," SOU head coach Brian McDermott said. "They're two good teams that we're playing, and they're two very different teams."
Southern Oregon continues to rank among the NAIA Div. II leaders in numerous team categories. The Raiders rank 11th in shooting percentage (.487), 13th in free throw percentage (.728), 17th in scoring (80.7) and 19th in assists (15.9).
Kyle Tedder and Eric Thompson are tied for third in conference scoring, averaging 16.6 points each, with David Sturner averaging 12.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Jeff Bush has led the conference in assists (5.9) while ranking fourth with a 2.4 assist/turnover ratio, and Tedder's 31 made 3-pointers are the most in the conference during the first half of the season.
Today's game against College of Idaho will be a rematch of a 100-93 overtime win for the Raiders on Dec. 15 in Ashland. College of Idaho is 9-10 overall this season and 5-4 in conference play to rank fifth in the CCC. The Yotes have been an elite defensive team this season, ranking third in NAIA Div. II in turnover margin (+6.1), fifth in steals (11.7) and 16th in blocks (4.1).
Saturday's game will give the Raiders a chance to beat Eastern Oregon for the second time this season and the opportunity to upset the top-ranked team in NAIA Div. II. The Mountaineers are 20-1 this season and 8-1 in conference play, with EOU's lone loss this year a 72-68 defeat to the Raiders on Dec. 14 in Ashland.
"We had a really good game with them here, as both teams played well," McDermott said. "They're very good offensively, very explosive offensively. We kind of feel like we match up decent, though it's another difficult place to play. It gets very loud, and it's a place where you have a difficult time keeping your composure."
The Mountaineers are the nation's top-ranked team for a reason, however. They lead the nation in rebounding margin (12.3) and rank third in rebounding (45.4), sixth in made three-pointers (9.3), ninth in opponent shooting percentage (.392) and assists (17.0) and 12th in scoring margin (14.5).
SOU HITS THE ROAD — the toughest road trip of the conference season awaits the Southern Oregon women's basketball season this weekend, as the Raiders will face a pair of top-25 teams with away games against No. 20 College of Idaho today and No. 6 Eastern Oregon on Saturday.
Southern Oregon, 15-5 overall and 5-4 in Cascade Collegiate Conference play this season, opens the second half of the conference schedule with hopes of earning season splits against the Coyotes and Mountaineers after both defeated SOU in Ashland last month.
The Raiders knocked off Evergreen and Northwest at home last weekend to snap a tough 1-4 stretch in their previous five games. Through 20 games, SOU ranks second in NAIA Div. II in rebounding (48.8) and shooting percentage (.484), while ranking third in scoring (87.5) and seventh in assists (18.0).
Melissa Sweat has already tallied 400 points this season, averaging exactly 20 per contest to rank seventh in the nation. Her .559 shooting percentage ranks eighth in the NAIA. Alexi Smith averages 14.6 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds per game, while Allison Gida tallies 13.8 points per contest.
MILE HIGH DUALS — With the National Duals now in the rearview mirror, the second-ranked Southern Oregon wrestling team begins the second half of the season this weekend at the Mile High Duals and Embry-Riddle Open in Prescott, Ariz.
Southern Oregon, 6-1 in dual matches this season, advanced to the championship dual of the 2013 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals on Sunday, where they fell in a final-bout heartbreaker 20-18 to No. 1 Grand View.
Southern Oregon will wrestle three duals today, beginning with a matchup against Embry-Riddle at 2 p.m. The Raiders will take on New Mexico Highlands at 3:30 p.m., followed by a match against NCAA Div. II No. 6 Grand Canyon at 5 p.m.
The Raiders are 16-3 all-time against the Eagles, but Embry-Riddle won the last matchup between the teams when E-R knocked off then-No. 1 SOU 28-16 in last year's season-opener.
Both New Mexico Highlands and Grand Canyon will be unfamiliar opponents for the Raiders, but Southern Oregon has had success against both programs in the past. The Raiders defeated New Mexico Highlands 29-15 during the 2007-08 season, and SOU is 2-0 against Grand Canyon, picking up a 41-13 win over the 'Lopes during the 2007-08 season and a 34-3 win the following year.
That match trifecta will be followed by the Embry-Riddle Open on Saturday, giving SOU a chance to get its 11 ranked wrestlers out on the mats as the Raiders begin preparation for the regional and national tournaments in February and March.