ASHLAND — Tonight's rubber match between Southern Oregon and Oregon Tech carries significance beyond just the rivalry bragging rights.
The 237th installment of the series is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Mountain Avenue Gym. The Raiders (15-7 overall, 10-3 Cascade Collegiate Conference) will have a chance to maintain their second-place standing in the CCC, stay in the title chase with College of Idaho (13-1 CCC) and strengthen their case to make a sizable jump back into the NAIA Division II Top 25. And for the Owls (17-8, 10-5), a quality road win they've struggled to secure would keep them among the top pack going into the final two weeks of the regular season.
OIT won the most recent matchup, 88-73, on Jan. 2 in Klamath Falls. SOU won the non-conference tilt, 109-106, on Nov. 14 in Ashland.
In the first CCC matchup, OIT caused 21 turnovers — SOU's highest total in over three years. Ten were the products of offensive fouls. OIT also shot 52 percent from the field, just above its CCC average of 48.
Southern Oregon was named the CCC Team of the Week on Sunday, but not before rescuing itself from what was nearly a full-blown disaster in Portland. On Friday night, the Raiders trailed by as many as 18 points as 10th-place Multnomah hit 10 first-half 3-pointers, and they needed 3-pointers of their own from Conor Carroll to tie it and Tristen Holmes with one second left to win it, 83-80. A night later, though, they picked up a signature road win at No. 15 Warner Pacific, 89-80, by shooting 61 percent from the field — their highest clip in 51 conference games going back to 2015-16. Kenny Meyer's 23 points and Jordan Hunt 19 points, six rebounds and six assists helped them complete their third straight regular-season sweep of the Knights, who fell a game back of SOU in the loss column.
The Owls enter the game in fifth place, but just one back in the loss column of WPC and Eastern Oregon and two back of SOU. They've gone 5-3 since they last saw the Raiders, with each loss coming on the road.
• In 74 minutes this year against Warner Pacific, Kenny Meyer scored 49 points on 25 field-goal attempts, dished out eight assists, collected five steals and didn't commit a turnover. In SOU's four wins against nationally-ranked CCC opponents, he's averaged 23.3 points on 65-percent shooting. He ranks 17th in points (13.6), sixth in assists (4.0) and steals (1.6), and first in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9-to-1) in conference play.
• Ben DeSaulnier is the ninth-leading scorer in CCC action (16.0) and is up to 1,876 career points. He needs 45 more to pass former NAIA Player of the Year Shea Washington (2003-06) for second place on SOU's career scoring list.
• The Raiders have received an uptick in production from their sophomore posts in six games since they last played OIT: Tate Hoffman has averaged 13.5 points on 54-percent shooting and 5.7 rebounds, and Jordan Hunt has put up 14.3 points on 59-percent shooting and 6.0 rebounds.
• Tristen Holmes is one of two individuals in CCC play ranking among the leaders in points (12.8), rebounds (6.8) and assists (5.4). WPC's Collin Malcolm, an Ashland product, is the other.
• Since moving into Mountain Avenue Gym, the Raiders are 22-4 at home in CCC games.
• SOU's clip of 19 assists per game is the third-highest in the country. The Raiders have gone 34-3 when logging 20 or more assists over the last three seasons.
• Against the rest of the top-four in the conference standings, SOU is 4-0.