ASHLAND — The 15th-ranked Southern Oregon women's basketball team erred on the side of aggression in its season-opener Friday night, a 76-64 victory over No. 24 University of California, Merced at Mountain Avenue Gym.
The Raiders were whistled for 31 fouls — a number unmatched since the 2013-14 opener — but their full-court pressure defense forced a whopping 43 Bobcats turnovers, more than any opponent has committed in the team's last 47 games.
Senior wing Casey Williams led the defensive charge with eight of SOU's 27 steals, tied for the sixth-highest individual total in Raider history. Senior point guard Toria Bradford shrugged off early foul trouble to record 13 points, seven assists and three steals, and junior forward Ariel Augustine totaled 13 points, four rebounds and four steals in her Raider debut.
Merced (3-2) scored 25 of its points at the line and got a 26-point, seven-assist and five-steal performance from guard Mia Belvin, who shot 8-of-12. Despite their troubles, the Bobcats coerced the Raider into some sloppy play of their own and forced 29 turnovers.
After trailing 27-10 two minutes into the third quarter, Merced cut the deficit to six points by halftime and got within one point on a few occasions in the third quarter.
Belvin's fast-break layup made it 48-47 with 2:11 left in the third, but Delaney Sparling's 3-pointer on the other end sparked a 14-0 SOU run in which the Bobcats went more than six minutes without a field goal.
Junior forward Destinee Jones highlighted the Raiders' bench efforts with 12 points, five boards and three steals and freshman reserve Syd'Nee Fryer added four points and six boards.
SOU struggled from the field, shooting 26-of-68, but generated 30 points in transition.
Eight individuals were playing their first game for the Raiders.
They'll play their second Monday at NCAA Division II school San Francisco State. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.
MENLO 25, SOUTHERN OREGON 15: At Phoenix, Menlo wrestled true to their rankings and even pulled off one surprise in a defeat of Southern Oregon, the first dual of the season for both teams at Phoenix High.
Menlo, the No. 4 team in the national preseason poll, claimed five of the final six weight classes behind five NAIA top-12 grapplers. The contest swung in the Oaks' favor on SOU's forfeit at 133 pounds and 12th-ranked Kevin James' 7-4 upset of third-ranked Hunter Hodges at 157.
The No. 9 Raiders took control early as 125-pounder Trey Long defeated Logan Eaton, 7-4, and 5th-ranked 141-pounder Devin Poppen followed the forfeit with a first-round pin of Ian Morken. SOU led 12-6 after 14th-ranked Chandler Michael took a 15-8 decision from Jeffrey Uyesaka at 149.
That's when the night turned. The Oaks got consecutive victories from James, ninth-ranked 165-pounder Joseph Jauregui (pin), fourth-ranked 174-pounder Anthony Orozco (decision) and eighth-ranked 184-pounder Bruce Valdez (major decision).
SOU's Tanner Fischer, ranked No. 5 at 197 pounds, stopped the bleeding with a slim 9-7 win against No. 19 Jovan Villalobos, but by then the outcome was already decided. Javier Gonzalez, the No. 3 heavyweight in the country, finished it by topping Zane Wardwell, 7-2.
The Raiders return to action Sunday at Pacific's Mike Clock Open in Forest Grove. They'll have their next dual next Friday at Eastern Oregon, another Cascade Conference squad.
MENLO 39, SOUTHERN OREGON 8: At Phoenix, Olivia Ioppolo won by fall but 10th-ranked Southern Oregon dropped its other seven contests in a loss to No. 7 Menlo (Calif.) at Phoenix High.
Ioppolo, a freshman from Longmont, Colo., picked up her first collegiate victory with a pin of Alexandra Christoforators at 116 pounds. SOU's only other points, however, came in Nevina DeLuca's 18-8 loss to Laynee Pasion at 123 and Sienna Ramirez's 12-4 loss to Anjela Peralta at 143.
The Oaks got wins by fall from fifth-ranked Hiba Salem (101 pounds) and second-ranked Iman Kazem (155) to go with a pair of technical falls. They also won by forfeit in two classes.
SOU (0-2) competes today at Pacific's Mike Clock Open in Forest Grove and travels to Eastern Oregon for another dual next Friday.