A pair of pivotal conference games saw the Southern Oregon men’s basketball team come out unscathed, with wins Saturday against Northwest University and Sunday versus Evergreen State College. The Raiders now sit at 16-6 overall, and 10-2 in the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC), which has the first place Northwest Christian Beacons looking over their shoulders.
This weekend was of the utmost importance, as two losses would’ve dropped the Raiders to 8-4 and third place in the CCC, and potentially out of the hunt for a conference title. Instead the Raiders won both to remain undefeated at home. “It’s really important to hold down home court,” said point guard Jordan Spear, “We’ve got NCU, who are 9-1, 10-1, so we gotta hold home court and not drop any games.”
The first contest of the weekend was an absolute thriller, with the Raiders narrowly escaping defeat versus Northwest University (NU) Eagles. In a game where SOU only led for 2:49, the outcome was decided on the final play of regulation. After NU guard Michael Dupree hit a three to tie it with 15.9 seconds left, Southern Oregon coach Brian McDermott opted against calling a timeout, and instead let his team play it out. That was the right call, because just as he has been able to do all season, Spear got the job done. With .08 seconds left Spear was fouled, where he made 1 out of 2 free throws to seal the 83-82 victory. The Australian product finished the night with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Following the victory, Coach McDermott had high praise for Spear, “He’s been our best player all year. He does a lot of different things for us; we ask him to guard one of the best guys, he’s handling the ball and having to run things, and he’s gotta be one of our best scorers.”
Alongside Spear’s production, guard Ben DeSauliner recorded an efficient line of 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in the victory against the Eagles.
Sunday’s game was a far cry from the barn-burner versus Northwest University. Leading 36-30 at the halfway point, the Raiders used a 21-8 run in the second half to break away from the Evergreen State College Geoducks. They cruised to a 88-74 victory behind forward Jordan West’s 25 point and 9 rebound effort. The elevated play and increased productivity in the 2nd half has become a staple of Raider basketball as of late: SOU has now won 7 CCC games where they trailed in the second half, and SOU shoots almost 10% better in the second half (44% in first half vs. 53% in second half) Over the weekend, the Raiders shot a blistering 65.9% from the field in the second half.
The reason for that? Key halftime adjustments. “I think we just assess it really well,” says Spear about the second half efficiency of the Raiders. “I mean, in the first half if we are lacking in some areas, we definitely go down and talk about it and we come out with the intent of improving in those areas. Collectively, we are a really tight group.” That ability to react and adjust at halftime has been the difference this season, and may be what leads them on a deep postseason run.