ASHLAND — When the Southern Oregon University men's basketball team's 11-game win streak ended on Dec. 21 at College of Idaho, no grand revelations were elicited. Just an old lesson.
"It's really hard to win on the road no matter where you go," SOU coach Brian McDermott said, "and I think we're seeing that everywhere the way people are getting beat right now."
In that case, welcome home. The second-ranked Raiders (14-2) will work on their 3-1 Cascade Conference record this weekend at Bob Riehm Arena, getting visits from Luke Jackson's first-place Northwest Christian Beacons (9-4, 3-0) on Friday and the Corban Warriors (6-6, 2-1) on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. both nights.
Pay-per-view streams of the games will be available in standard definition and HD at the SOU Athletics Portal, and kids 12-and-under will get in free.
The Beacons and Warriors have so far been enjoying the fruits of their own home floors. Both defeated Evergreen and upset 17th-ranked Northwest University in their last conference weekends, and Corban's only CCC loss was a 67-55 setback at Northwest Christian.
Under Jackson — the former University of Oregon great who had short bench stints on four NBA teams in as many seasons — the Beacons have been boosted by a trio of kickbacks from NCAA Division I schools who flocked when Jackson was hired following last season.
From University of Oregon, the Beacons got 6-foot-9 post Austin Kuemper (19.6 points, 9.5 rebounds) and 6-3 guard Coleton Baker (16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists). Spencer Coleman (19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds) started 18 games last year as a junior at Montana but was dismissed from the team in June.
"There are a lot of new parts, so you kind of figured it was going to take them a little while to get it going, but they've improved as much as or more than anyone in the league so far," McDermott said of NCU. "Now they have their point guard back [Javonte Byrd, who has been eligible for three games] and they look like they have a good idea of what they want to do."
Eleven of the last 12 contests between SOU and NCU have been decided by 10 points or less, and the one that didn't went to overtime. SOU has won the last four in the series but prior to that lost nine of 10.
Corban is similarly new, but went a different direction to acquire its talent: seven of 12 players on the active roster are freshmen. Junior guard Jordan Carter — who missed most of last year with an injury — leads the way with 16.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists; Cyrus Ward posts 14.9 points and 8.1 rebounds; and Caleb Herzberg, averaging 14.6 points, is shooting 53.2 percent (42-for-79) from 3-point range.
As a team, the Warriors are shooting an impressive 48.5 percent from the field and 34.6 from 3.
"They're really, really young, but they've surprised me. I like a lot of their guys," McDermott said. "They're going to zone you for 40 minutes, they can get out in transition and they have some shooters. The thing I like about them is they get out and run hard, but if they don't have a shot they'll take 30 seconds off the clock."
The Raiders have won nine of their last 12 against Corban and swept the series last year.
On Monday, they avoided their first losing streak with a 70-58 nonleague win at William Jessup behind David Sturner's 18 points and 12 rebounds (his 11th double-double) and Eric Thompson's 18 points and nine boards.
"I don't think we were exceptionally sharp, but, kind of like we've been, we got big shots and big plays when we needed them," McDermott said.
SOU GEARS UP — At Ashland, Southern Oregon University coach Lynn Kennedy knew a few bumps in the road would eventually be unavoidable for his young team.
After a couple of Cascade Conference hiccups at Eastern Oregon and College of Idaho, now he gets to see how the 17th-ranked Raiders (13-3, 2-2 CCC) respond. The Northwest Christian Beacons (3-8, 0-3) will be in town on Friday and the Corban Warriors (8-7, 3-0) on Saturday for games at Bob Riehm Arena.
Both are scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. and kids 12-and-under will be admitted without charge. Live pay-per-view streams are also available in standard definition and HD at the SOU Athletics Portal.
The Raiders finished off their nonleague schedule Monday with a 91-77 win at New Hope Christian, where they surpassed their season scoring average by three points as Carly Meister tallied 19.
However, SOU's biggest concerns at the moment rest on the defensive end of the floor. SOU conceded 102 points at 24th-ranked EOU and 91 at C of I, but this weekend will face two of the lowest-scoring teams in the conference.
For the Beacons, a league-worst scoring average of 52.7 points in CCC play lines up with these shooting percentages: 37.4 percent from the field, 25 percent from 3-point range and 61.1 percent at the free-throw line. They've lost five straight by double digits and two of their three wins were registered against Simpson. Hannah Frederick leads NCU at 12.1 points per game and Tami Brown, the lone senior on the roster, averages 9.5 points and 9.1 rebounds.
SOU swept the season series last year and is 11-2 all-time against the Beacons.
Corban, on the other hand, has been known to cause problems for the Raiders. SOU's two wins last year snapped a seven-game skid in the series, but the Warriors have returned to title-contender form coming off a 5-13 conference showing.