The Southern Oregon Men’s basketball team continued their run of dominance at home, defeating Walla Walla University 79-59 Saturday night. The win marks the ninth consecutive home victory for the Raiders, and their win streak now stands at five. Saturday’s game was the first of a four-game homestand. SOU sits at 20-5 overall, and is currently in second place in the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) behind Northwest Christian University (NCU).
Following up his recent game winner last Friday, Ben DeSauliner lead the way for the Raider Men with 22 points on 8-13 shooting from the field. DeSauliner also extended his hot streak from 3-point land, as he went 4-5 in the win and is now shooting 47.9% on the season. The SOU single-season player record for 3 PT field goal percentage is 46.6%.
The victory was crucial, as the Raiders are in the midst of a battle for the conference title with NCU. Southern Oregon has already locked up a spot in the conference tournament, but an outright conference title would secure an automatic bid to the NAIA DII National Championship tournament in March. This makes each game especially important with the decisive February 19th matchup against NCU looming ahead.
The victory against Walla Walla also marked the 93rd victory for the duo that is forward Jordan West and guard Joel Spear. In the 4 years since they both arrived from Australia, the Raiders have posted a 93-34 record, making them the winningest tandem in SOU basketball history.
The two seniors have both turned in exceptional seasons so far. West is averaging 17.2 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game, while Spear is averaging 13.2 points per game, 5.6 assists per game and 5.3 rebounds per game. According to head coach Brian McDermott, they have been the foundation to the Raiders’ success all season.
“They’re the heart and soul right now,” said McDermott, “our two seniors, starting and been here for 4 years now … The fun thing is, they’ve improved incredibly since their freshmen year.” That is undeniable looking back at the statistics; Spear averaged 2.3 points per game his first season, and West averaged 3.5 points per game.
Heading into the final portion of the season, the Raiders will look to lean on West and Spear’s veteran leadership as Southern Oregon prepares for the postseason. If they are to make any sort of run, SOU must focus in on what they do best: stay zoned in the second half. The Raider men have won eight games in which they have trailed in the second half.
Coach McDermott credited the level-headed approach his team takes when it comes to crunch time as the fundamental reason for the Raiders come-from-behind CCC victories. “We’ve won a lot of close games,” said McDermott, “We get to the end of games, and our guys stay pretty calm.”
Those narrow games are what separates a runner-up finish from hoisting a championship trophy, and McDermott is fully aware of that. “The difference between having a good season and great season is four or five close games.”
That resiliency is what has kept the Raiders in the hunt all season, ultimately for a conference title. The question remains: will this year go down as a good season or a great season?