ASHLAND — With a lot riding on the outcome of Saturday's matchup with Oregon Tech, the Southern Oregon men's basketball team picked a fine time to find itself a little at Bob Riehm Arena.
The Raiders had won only two of their last six games but were able to use the energy of a raucous home crowd and a team-first mentality to easily pull away from the Owls for a 72-53 win in Cascade Collegiate Conference play.
RECAP: Kyle Tedder and Eric Thompson each score 13 points to lead a balanced Raider attack.
up next: Friday, Southern Oregon at Northwest; Oregon Tech at Evergreen State College.
Southern Oregon (18-8, 9-5 CCC) managed 19 assists on 28 field goals and worked together to deny the sharp-shooting Owls (13-13, 4-10) easy looks at the basket. Kyle Tedder and Eric Thompson each scored 13 points to pace the Raiders, who had seven players score at least five points and eight register at least one assist.
"We finally are starting to share it a little bit better," said SOU head coach Brian McDermott. "This team had been pretty selfish for a while and gotten away with it some nights and didn't get away with it other nights so it's fun to see them progress."
Even more fun was all the milestones accomplished Saturday night for the SOU program. The Raiders earned their third win over Oregon Tech in a single season for the first time since the 1998-99 season and registered a season sweep over their rivals from Klamath Falls for the first time since 1971.
Prior to this season, the Owls had won 28 of the past 29 matchups between the teams dating back to 2002 — much to McDermott's chagrin.
"I know that as well as anybody, 28 out of 29 tells a big story," said the 17th year SOU coach. "That's what athletics is, there's always all kinds of streaks and stuff and I'm glad I lived long enough to start to get on the other side of it."
That longevity also helped McDermott pull into a tie atop the program wins list with Ted Schopf on Saturday with victory No. 241. McDermott downplayed his achievement after the game when asked what it meant to him to be in such rare territory in Raider history.
"It means I haven't pissed off enough people to get me out of here, so I'm doing a good job there," he said with a laugh. McDermott's first chance at the outright top spot comes Friday at 20th-ranked Northwest.
Southern Oregon got off to a blistering start in its third test against Oregon Tech, using four points from Thompson and 3-pointers from Tedder and Tim Weber to take a 10-2 lead 21/2 minutes into the contest. The Raiders opened a double-digit advantage midway through the first half and led by as many as 17 points until the Owls closed with a 7-2 surge, capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from former North Medford High standout Kyle Waits for a 39-27 halftime score.
Facing the second-best 3-point shooting team in the conference — the Owls entered with a .364 success rate from beyond the arc — SOU did well to get out on leading marksmen David Clarke and Mihajlo Matic and limit their success in the opening 20 minutes.
"We thought the biggest thing was not let Clarke and Matic get off shooting 3s because that's what fuels them," said McDermott. "I think the first half one was 0-for-2 (Matic) and the other was 2-for-8 (Clarke) so we felt like we were doing a good job there. When you do that you're going to give up a few other things and we did but they're college basketball players, man, you can't take it all away."
Closing in on the Owls' top shooters and using good timing to thwart Oregon Tech when the ball went into the low post, SOU was able to limit OIT to a 10-for-33 effort in the first half, including 4-for-16 from 3-point range. The same held true in the final 20 minutes, with Oregon Tech managing only 36 percent success overall (20-for-56) and 22 percent from beyond the arc (6-for-27).
"We've had some tough nights shooting," said Oregon Tech head coach Danny Miles. "We've got a lot of inexperienced guys but they've really played well lately so I was surprised we didn't play better. We had a lot of unforced turnovers and that's what really bothered me."
Neither team was terribly protective of the basketball, with each posting 24 turnovers, but what helped the Raiders was their unselfish play, which led to many good looks and a 28-for-52 (54 percent) night from the field. No stranger to the 3-pointer themselves — the Raiders lead the CCC in 3-point percentage (.405) — SOU was a cool 10-for-23 (44 percent) from deep.
"It was a pretty sloppy game, they turned it over a lot, too," said Miles, "but give them credit, they're a better team than we are."
Oregon Tech tried to make a run to open the second half, scoring on three straight possessions, but SOU countered with a 3-pointer by Tedder and a three-point play by Thompson.
"Eric's struggled a little bit until the last couple games so that was nice to see him do that," said McDermott of his scoring leaders, who were a combined 10-for-21 from the field. "He was really good Tuesday night and he was very good tonight. And Teds has been probably the most efficient player in the league when you look at some of those advance stats. He's been really effective and efficient for us."
SOU's lead was trimmed to 55-42 with 9:50 to play but Tedder came alive with a pair of steals, a breakaway dunk, a 3-pointer and an assist to Thompson for another three-point play to put the game away. Weber added a three-point play in that 11-0 run.
"We thought we could get right back in it," said Miles, in his 42nd year at OIT. "We were only down 12 at the half and the last time we played we were down 20 and came back within two points, but we just couldn't make the plays tonight."
Waits finished with a team-high 14 points and seven rebounds for Oregon Tech on 6-for-12 shooting, while Clarke had 12 points on a 5-for-15 effort that included going 2-for-10 from 3-point range. Matic managed only two points after entering the game averaging 10.9 points in league play.
The balanced Raiders got eight points apiece from Weber, David Sturner and Jordan West, with Sturner pulling in a team-best seven rebounds while Weber led the squad with five assists. Tedder also had three steals, five rebounds and three assists.