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SOU women facing crucial games

ASHLAND — It could be a make-or-break weekend for the Southern Oregon University women's basketball team.

The Raiders host College of Idaho on Friday — both teams are tied for second place in the Cascade Conference — then welcomes league-leading Eastern Oregon Saturday night. SOU and College of Idaho trail Eastern Oregon (17-2 overall) by one game atop the conference standings.

Tip-off for both contests will be at 5:30 p.m. at McNeal Pavilion in Ashland.

The SOU men (7-15, 3-9 CC) will also host C of I and Eastern Oregon. Those games are both scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The SOU women (19-3, 10-2 CC) suffered its first conference defeat to Eastern Oregon in the league opener, 80-78, in La Grande on Nov. 30. The Raiders other loss came to Concordia, 68-52, on Jan. 4.

Since losing to Concordia, Southern Oregon has rattled off seven straight wins, all by double digits.

The Raiders downed College of Idaho, 78-73, in Caldwell, Idaho, in the first meeting between the two squads.

"Fans will get to see two different styles of ball this weekend," said SOU coach Lynn Kennedy on this weekend's games. "C of I likes to run up and down the court, and uses full-court pressure and aggressive play. This should be a high-scoring game."

The Coyotes (13-6, 10-2 CC) feature high-scoring guard Whitney Clark, a 5-foot-6 senior who is averaging 16.5 points per game.

Clark was held to 10 points on 1-of-9 shooting in the first matchup with SOU.

"Whitney Clark is a great shooter for them, we need to slow her down" said Kennedy.

Raider guard Chelsey Muri, averaging 13.9 points an outing, erupted for 32 points against C of I in the SOU victory. She and post Jacki Speer (12.1 points, 8.5 rebounds) lead a Raider team that averages 83 points per game, while giving up just 66.

In Saturday's matchup against the 19th-ranked Mountaineers, SOU will have to deal with Eastern Oregon's size and slow-down tactics on offense.

"EOU likes to play more of a halfcourt, pressure defense," Kennedy said. "They like to keep the score low and battle you inside with their height.

"The first game against them in November went back and forth, and I expect the same in this game."

The Mountaineers are led by 6-foot senior post Sheena Henderson, who averages 14.5 points and 8.4 boards a contest, both leading her team.

Eastern Oregon tied with Corban for the Cascade Conference title a year ago, then lost to Hastings College, 74-47, in the NAIA National Tournament.

The Southern Oregon men will be without leading scorer Matt Cowell (17.1 ppg.) for this weekend's contests because of a severely sprained ankle.

The Raiders dropped both games to EOU and C of I earlier this season, including an 84-64 defeat to the 13th-ranked and conference-leading Mountaineers (17-3, 10-2 CC).