It turns out the Lady Raider’s dominance isn’t restricted solely to the Cascade Conference. The third-ranked Southern Oregon women’s basketball team controlled Thursday afternoon’s matchup with Clarke (Iowa), winning 85-63.
The game served as the first round for the NAIA Division II Championships in Sioux City, Iowa. With the win, the third-ranked Raiders improve to a school-record 30-1 on the season, and advance to play fourth-seeded and 15th nationally ranked Briar Cliff (Iowa) at 3:15 PM local time, Friday.
Clarke committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter, four of them in the first minute alone. The Raiders capitalized in transition off of their tenacious defense, jumping out to a 21-8 lead after one quarter. All-CCC junior Autumn Durand caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 9 of her team-high 21 points, and SOU was in control at the half, 45-28.
Coming out of the locker room, the Raiders returned to the court focused, which coach Alex Carlson attributed to two that have been there before, seniors Ashley Claussen and Carly Meister. “Now at a higher level in the national tournament, a big part of [preparation] is senior leadership,” Carlson says. “They set the example and allow the team to play at a very high level.”
Claussen and Meister started slow, but unleashed in the second half, combining for 22 of SOU’s 40 second half points. SOU cruised to victory thanks to 23 steals and 22 offensive rebounds, which Carlson said offset 22 Raider turnovers. “The extra shots were huge. We were a little nervous coming into our first game, so the extra opportunities really helped make up for that.”
Claussen finished with 17 points, 5 assists, and 6 steals while Meister had 15 points and Tiani Bradford had 6 assists and 6 steals. Durand also had 11 rebounds.
Despite having 22 turnovers, SOU forced Clarke into 30 turnovers, to keep pace with their nation-leading +8-turnover margin. Coach Carlson says the game was a foundation as the tournament proceeds, with one simple adjustment. “We hope to have that same type of [defensive] pressure tomorrow, but with less turnovers.”
Briar Cliff was a semifinalist in last year’s nationals, and although it’s tempting to look ahead in the tournament, the senior Claussen’s mantra remains the same it has all season. “One game at a time.”
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