Raider men still in search of identity as league play tips off

The SOU men's basketball team enters this weekend at a serious crossroad. The Raiders (4-5) open Cascade Collegiate Conference play on the road tonight when they take on Eastern Oregon University and the College of Idaho.

Back-to-back losses to Willamette University and Lewis and Clark State College on consecutive days last weekend put the Raiders under .500 for the first time this season. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers (6-1) are ranked 18th in the latest NAIA Division II poll and the 'Yotes from Idaho (2-6) are eager to snap a four-game losing streak.

Southern Oregon appears to be struggling to maintain a team identity as it has won big at times and been blown out of the gymnasium on others.

"We haven't been able to develop that identity yet," head coach Brian McDermott said. "We only have three guys who played from last season and it takes a while for a team to come together."

Senior guard Matt Cowell and transfer forward Ryon Pool have shouldered the scoring load for the Raiders this season, averaging 11.0 and 10.5 points per game, respectively. But, the Raiders have found little help elsewhere, and average 10 points fewer than their opponents.

If Southern is going to get back on track, it will have to start under the basket. The Raiders are exactly equal with their opponents in the rebounding department and will rely on the tall shoulders of transfer post Kory Mahr (5.6 rebounds per game) to help pick up the offense. Pool is a double-threat for the Raiders and is second on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game. Those rebounds should lead to outlet passes which spark the Raiders' transition attack.

"I like our transition up and down the court a lot better than before," said McDermott. "It appears that defensively we are starting to get the concepts working. We're much better than the statistics would show."

The stats show a team that is averaging 64.6 points to its opponents 74.3, has turned the ball over 168 times and shoots a meager 27 percent from 3-point range.

For the season to turn around the Raiders will need to fix a little bit of everything.

"This weekend is a big challenge for us, and if we can steal a game on the road it will definitely help us find that identity we seek," said McDermott.

The Raiders face off against the Moutaineers, a team that has beaten SOU the last two meetings. Eastern averages 88 points per game and is led by senior wing Mark Carollo, averaging 18.9 points per game. The Mountaineers shoot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the 3-point line. Junior wing Neil Fryer can light it up for the Moutaineers, having hit 14 of 20 3-point attempts.

If Southern is going to steal a game this weekend, it will most likely be against the 'Yotes of The College of Idaho. C of I returns the CCC defensive player of the year in Bryan Champ. Champ leads the 'Yotes in assists, steals and rebounds while pouring in 13 points a game.

"(The Coyotes) are very similar to us," McDermott said. "They've had to make adjustments in their lineup. "&

166;They're just not in their groove yet and I hope they are not there this Saturday either."

The Raiders will return home on Dec. 11, when they face Dominican University.

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