Raiders roll in opener
ASHLAND — For a team known for its knockout offense, Southern Oregon sure spent a lot of time in the offseason obsessing about the other side of the court.
On Friday, a Cascade Conference team finally got a chance to see what all the fuss was about.
"We kind of have a new defensive mentality," junior guard Whitney Scott said, "so we just really wanted to play tough defense against them and try to make the best statement we could."
The 16th-ranked Raiders did that and more in their league opener Friday, locking down Eastern Oregon in the first half and cruising through the second for a decisive 91-66 victory before 398 fans at McNeal Pavilion.
Southern Oregon (8-0) held the Mountaineers (4-2) to 29 percent shooting in the first half and 39 percent for the game and also forced 23 turnovers, setting up its first big test of the young season — tonight's showdown with No. 23 College of Idaho (9-1).
The Coyotes also stormed out of the Cascade Conference starting block Friday, beating Oregon Tech 65-64 in Klamath Falls.
"It's one of the best teams in the conference coming in here," SOU head coach Lynn Kennedy said of the Coyotes. "We've got to do the same thing. We've got to establish inside, we've got to put good pressure on the ball, play good defense and we've got to rebound. If we do that, we'll be successful."
That was pretty much the summation of the Raiders' latest blowout. Playing tight man-to-man defense, they held the Mountaineers to just seven field goals in the first 20 minutes and didn't let up in the second half.
Scott, who finished with 17 points and seven assists, hit a 3-pointer 16 seconds into the second half then added another about four minutes later to give the Raiders their largest lead of the game at 58-30.
Senior guard Rhiannon Dickison also poured it on for SOU, hitting 7 of 10 field goals — including 5 of 8 from long range — to score a game-high 19 points. Junior forward Ashley Baker added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Ashlee Michelson had 17 points and seven boards to lead the Mountaineers, who hit 20 of 23 free throws to keep the score somewhat respectable.
The Raiders shot 49 percent (37-for-75) for the game, including 11-for-24 from 3-point range, as Eastern Oregon struggled containing SOU's inside-outside combination despite holding Raider all-star forward Jacki Speer to seven points and two rebounds in 13 minutes.
"The only reason we got open shots on the outside is because they collapsed so much on the inside because we have such a tough inside game," Scott said. "Either way it doesn't matter. We can go inside or we can go out."
"Our offensive sets are designed so that if they take away the inside, our outside's wide open; if they take away our outside, our inside is wide open," Kennedy said. "Any type of defense that they have we can counter up and you really saw that in the first half."
That's when SOU used a 14-0 run to turn a 25-17 battle into a 39-17 runaway. Dickison started and finished the splurge with bombs. Eastern Oregon, meanwhile, managed to put up just three shots in that three-minute span, and two of those were 3-point attempts.
The main culprit: SOU's pressure. When the Raiders weren't stealing the ball, they were forcing bad shots, which usually led to fastbreaks headed the other way.
It all added up to another Raider rout. The defending league tournament champions have won six of their eight games by 19 points or more and entered Friday's game with an average scoring margin of 27.9 points.
To Kennedy, that's proof that the team's commitment to defense is working.
"They had to create a lot of their shots with the dribble but we were right there every time," Kennedy said. "We need to do a little bit better with our post defense — they went to the line way too many times — but the idea is to get a little bit more pressure, give them a quick shot, we block out and we're gone in transition. And once we get on our offensive side, you can see we can light it up either from the inside or the outside."
EASTERN OREGON (4-2, 0-1)
Leavitt 4-12 4-5 12, Miller 4-10 2-3 10, Fiso 2-4 0-0 4, Stickney 0-3 0-0 0, Michelson 3-7 11-12 17, Sullivan 1-2 0-0 2, Garro 1-1 0-0 3, Valdez 3-7 3-3 9, Smith 3-8 0-0 7, Lea 0-1 0-0 0, Luce 1-2 0-0 0, Hughes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-57 20-23 66.
SOUTHERN OREGON (8-0, 1-0)
Scott 7-15 0-0 17, Baker 4-6 4-5 12, Cooper 2-7 0-0 4, Dickison 7-10 0-1 19, Speer 3-6 1-2 7, Nakamura 2-5 1-1 5, Schmitz 3-5 0-0 6, Wood 2-7 0-0 6, Brookins 0-6 0-0 0, Winnner 1-1 0-0 2, Scheffler 3-4 0-0 7. Totals: 37-75 6-10 91.
Halftime — Southern Oregon 45, Eastern Oregon 24. 3-point goals — EOU 2-7 (Leavitt 0-1, Miller 0-1, Stickney 0-1, Michelson 0-1, Garro 1-1, Smith 1-1, Luce 0-1), SOU 11-24 (Scott 3-7, Dickison 5-8, Wood 2-5, Brookins 0-3, Scheffler 1-1). Fouled out — Fiso. Rebounds — EOU 38 (Miller 9), SOU 40 (Baker 7, Cooper 7). Assists — EOU 6 (Leavitt 2, Fiso 2), SOU 17 (Scott 7). Totals fouls — EOU 15, SOU 18.