Raiders play for tourney title tonight
ASHLAND — Two improbable wins got the Southern Oregon University men's basketball team out of the month of February. One more would get the 23rd-ranked Raiders a Cascade Conference crown.
Fourth-seeded SOU (24-8 overall) will visit top-seeded and sixth-ranked College of Idaho (27-5) at 6 PST tonight at J.A. Albertson Activities Center for the title game of the CCC Championships.
The Raiders played in the title game two seasons ago at Warner Pacific and lost, 67-63, before making a run to the NAIA Sweet 16.
The Coyotes, who have won 33 straight home games, won last year's championship in an 83-59 rout of sixth-seeded Northwest Christian before getting knocked out of the national tournament in the first round by the host school, College of the Ozarks.
SOU and C of I split two regular-season meetings with both teams winning at home.
“They are extremely balanced,” Raiders coach Brian McDermott said of C of I. “And they do have a really good inside-outside game. They have really good depth, too. They just have all the pieces, and they’re experienced.”
To get to the title game, the Raiders won 81-66 in the semifinals Saturday at 15th-ranked Warner Pacific. In the quarterfinals, they triumphed 98-92 in double overtime against Northwest Christian.
C of I started downed seventh-seeded Eastern Oregon in the semis, 73-58, and eighth-seeded Oregon Tech in the quarters, 71-64. Senior guard Demetrius Perkins averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the wins, which saw OIT and EOU shoot a combined 31 percent.
The Yotes finished in a three-way tie for the CCC regular-season title with 10th-ranked Concordia and WPC. They won the tiebreaker to get the No. 1 seed and an automatic spot in the 32-team NAIA Championships, which run March 11-17 in Point Lookout, Mo.
A win tonight would give the Raiders an automatic berth in the tourney, but if they lose, the CCC's second automatic goes to Concordia for earning the No. 2 seed.
In the event of a loss, SOU stands in good position to earn an at-large berth to the national tournament. The bracket will be revealed Wednesday afternoon.
McDermott is confident the Raiders will advance.
“We’re in,” he said. “The only way we could get knocked out is if they dropped us in the (top 25) poll, and there’s no way that could happen. They can’t do that. You can’t drop a team that’s playing for a conference championship.”
SOU earned a 77-74 win over then-No. 2 C of I on Dec. 20 in Ashland behind Tim Weber’s 21 points, five assists and five rebounds. Ben DeSaulnier added 17 points and the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:13 remaining.
On Jan. 23 in Caldwell, SOU went 8-for-16 from beyond the arc in the first half and led by as many as nine points before stumbling, 80-72. A 17-2 run gave the Coyotes a 64-53 lead that the Raiders cut down to two points with 2:57 left. C of I's Joey Nebeker hit five 3-pointers to score 19 points with 10 rebounds and counter Eric Thompson’s 18 points and 10 boards for the Raiders.
One more win would tie the Raiders with the 2012-13 squad for the most in program history. Before this stretch, they'd never won 20-plus games in three straight seasons.