ASHLAND — Inside muscle? Check. Outside shooting? Check. Dynamic playmaker? In Jeff Bush, Southern Oregon had that, too, Friday.
It's a combination that Raider opponents may come to fear in the postseason.
RECAP: Junior guard Jeff Bush leads a second-half assault as the Raiders win their fifth straight and clinch a home playoff game.
UP NEXT: Wednesday, to-be-determined opponent at Southern Oregon for conference playoffs.
SOU's muscular point guard had 11 points and four assists in the second half and the Raiders dominated the paint from start to finish to rout Corban, 77-60, clinching a home game in the first round of the Cascade Conference tournament at Bob Riehm Arena.
"It's easy to be aggressive when you've got big guys working hard for you down low," Bush said.
Southern Oregon (21-8, 12-5 Cascade), which has won five games in a row and six of its last seven, completes its regular season schedule tonight against Northwest Christian. Regardless of the outcome, the 21st-ranked Raiders, who will finish third in the final league standings, will host a CCC playoff game for the first time since 2006 on Wednesday — probably against Concordia.
Besides Bush's all-around performance, David Sturner had 14 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, Eric Thompson 14 points and seven boards and Kyle Tedder 15 points to lead the Raiders, who led wire-to-wire in one of their most complete performances of the season.
Southern Oregon outplayed the overmatched, undersized Warriors in all phases, outscoring the visitors in the paint 38-18, shooting 55.4 percent (31-for-56) from the field, holding Corban to 36 percent shooting and claiming the battle of the boards 40-31.
"I gotta give coach (Brian McDermott) credit for this," Sturner said. "He told us in December that our motion offense wasn't going to start clicking the way he wants it to until late January or early February, and everybody was kind of on the fence about that. But then sure enough, our offense is clicking."
Yes, it is.
Up nine at the break, the Raiders began to pull away early in the second half behind a finely-tuned offense that shredded Corban's zone defense — the sort of zone that may have given the Raiders fits earlier in the season. Not anymore.
Bush was the catalyst. Usually content to set up teammates and play lock-down defense, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior shifted into attack mode to help the Raiders put the game away.
First, he drained a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer to give the Raiders a 53-40 lead. Then, Bush crashed the boards for a rebound putback. Moments later, he soared in for a spectacular fastbreak layup, switching the ball from his right hand to his left in midair to give the Raiders a 61-47 cushion with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
"I was just trying to stick with my game and when things open up, be a little more aggressive," Bush said. "And like I said, those big guys are just making it easy for me."
Bush later added a sweet floater for good measure as the Raiders pushed their lead to as many as 22 points before coasting down the stretch.
"When they double off, you gotta take those shots," McDermott said, "and that's what (Bush) does. He's not afraid to take them."
Dix Daum added eight points and Joel Spear three assists for the Raiders, who haven't lost since Jan. 26.
Freshman point guard Andrew Evans scored 16 points to lead the Warriors (9-17, 5-12). Josiah Sebens added 12 points and Dustin Moore 10 points.
Evans did his part to keep Corban within striking distance in the first half. The aggressive 5-foot-9 Canby High graduate hit 4 of 10 shots, including two 3s, on his way to 11 first-half points. He scored seven straight points on pull-up jumpers against SOU's switching man-to-man defense to cut the Raiders' lead to 14-12, then was held to one point the rest of the half as the Raiders reclaimed the momentum and took a 39-30 lead into the break.
Terriel Thomas put an end to Evans' streak with an inside layup off a nice feed from Thompson, kick-starting a 16-7 SOU run that upped its lead to 30-19.
Corban's outside shooting — the Warriors hit 5 of 9 3-pointers in the first half — gave it an important boost, but the Raiders' 18-8 advantage in the paint told the story. Sturner and Thompson bullied their Corban counterparts inside, combining for 15 points and 13 rebounds in the first 20 minutes, and SOU's close-range attack produced efficiency: SOU hit 15 of 28 first-half shots; Corban was 11-for-28.
"It's something that we thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year, and it didn't happen as much as we wanted it to," Thompson said of SOU's attack-the-basket mentality. "Now, coach (McDermott) is really stressing that as an issue. So that's been our plan, and going out and actually doing it for the last six games in a row has been big for us."
Before the game, McDermott was honored for becoming the program's all-time winningest coach last week, when he picked up his 242nd victory at SOU on the road against Northwest.
"I always thought when I got into coaching that's what I wanted to do," said McDermott, who took over the program in 1996. "The place where I was at I wanted to stay at, I wanted to be committed to it. And as a head coach I've been at one place for 10 years and another one for 17. That's staying, and I think that's how you should do it."