Raiders to face No. 16 Knights, No. 11 Cavs
ASHLAND — The most pivotal — and the last — weekend of the regular season is upon the 19th-ranked Southern Oregon University men's basketball team.
SOU (22-6 overall, 11-5 Cascade Conference) will be home to face 16th-ranked Warner Pacific (22-6, 12-4) tonight and 11th-ranked Concordia (22-5, 12-4) on Saturday. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tipoffs at Riehm Arena.
The Knights and Cavaliers are still clinging to conference championships hopes, both one game behind third-ranked College of Idaho, which finishes its CCC slate at Evergreen and Northwest. The Raiders haven't technically been eliminated from title contention either, but a sweep would give them at least the No. 2 seed in the upcoming CCC tournament and one win would clinch a home game in Wednesday's quarterfinal round.
Of equal importance, a nice weekend would pad SOU's NAIA tournament resume, which already includes a 4-2 record against ranked foes. NAIA Division II coaches' poll voters were unmoved by last Saturday's 67-58 win over Oregon Tech, as the Raiders stayed at No. 19 and were surpassed by Union (Ky.), which owns a record of 24-4 but has yet to defeat a ranked opponent.
The Raiders won at Concordia in overtime on Dec. 5, 78-75, and were thumped by a score of 80-42 the next night at Warner Pacific, registering their lowest point total since 1983.
SOU would have gladly accepted these circumstances before the season, considering it had to replace an All-American post, the school's all-time leading assist man and the school's seventh-leading scorer from last year's squad. The circumstances also provide the chance to exorcise some demons.
Besides the benefit of playing at home, there are few differences between this weekend and last year's regular-season finales.
Like this year, the Raiders entered their final CCC games, at Warner Pacific and Concordia, with a record of 22-6 overall and 11-5 in conference play. Like this year, they entered with a favorable ranking (No. 14) and the CCC's top shooting percentage (it was 50.8 then and is 50.7 now).
Then everything went south. The Raiders' two worst nights of the season ensued, as they shot 30 percent and went 10-for-71 from 3-point range in a pair of blowout losses. SOU would go on to drop its CCC quarterfinal game against Northwest Christian and finish at No. 26 in the rankings. Concordia, at No. 25, was granted the final at-large bid to the NAIA tournament.
Some highlights for the Raiders:
Eric Thompson and Jordan West have scored in double figures in the same games 20 times.
West is averaging 16.2 points on 10 shots per game in SOU's last six. He's connected on 13 of his last 21 attempts from 3-point range, bringing his CCC average to 14.8 points to rank ninth. Thompson's 15.6 in conference play rank seventh, and he's No. 5 at 7.4 rebounds.
Tim Weber, who leads the NAIA with four triple-doubles, has recorded 10-plus assists on 10 occasions this season. College of Idaho's Emmanuel Morgan and Oregon Tech's Brandon Bautista are the CCC's only other players who have have hit 10 assists, doing it once each. Weber's 8.1 assists per game are No. 1 in the NAIA.
Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Warner Pacific is the only team with more conference wins (51) than SOU (45).
SOU is 6-2 at home against ranked opponents over the last three seasons. The Raiders are 9-1 at home overall this season.
SOU hasn't committed more than 13 turnovers in its last 10 games. The Raiders had 43 in their first conference games against Concordia and WPC.