Raiders ride their reserves

Even with a bench that's a little lighter than usual at the moment, the Southern Oregon University men's basketball team flashed a little depth on Saturday night.

The Raiders got 56 points off the bench and beat Willamette, 95-81, for the first time since 2005 in the finale of the Flagship Inn Invitational.

SOU (7-1) will begin Cascade Conference play on a six-game win streak this weekend against Concordia and Warner Pacific.

Senior point guard Humphrey Jackson had a game-high 19 points, but the Raiders got 10 more buckets off the bench than they did from their starters.

Foul trouble kept starting forward Austin Wolfer off the floor for all but four minutes of the game, and as a result three big men came off the bench with big contributions, led by Chris Mackovjak's 18 points and seven rebounds.

Roland Johnson also chipped in 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, while Ryan Staker made his return after missing four games and had 11 points and six rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench.

Johnson, a junior transfer from College of the Siskiyous (Calif.), is averaging more than 10 points off the bench and also had nine blocks on the weekend. Mackovjak has seen his role expand off the bench after injuries knocked both starting posts out, and has averaged 12 points in the past three games.

"We've got a lot of guys on this team that can come in and contribute," said Mackovjak, who played two years of basketball at Ashland High School before moving to Eugene before his junior year. "There are a lot of people that can score, and that's why we've been able to keep winning games even with the injuries.

"Once we're at full strength, I think this is going to be a scary team to play."

Staker, who played with a brace on his left hand due to a minor fracture on his thumb, is averaging 15 points and will likely be back in the starting lineup when the Raiders host Concordia on Friday.

Starting forward David Grant's status for the weekend is still questionable. The 6-foot-6 senior broke a thumb on his shooting hand in a practice two weeks ago and is still in a soft cast.

SOU's lead was as big as 23 in the second half thanks to 19-for-30 shooting after halftime, while 29 percent shooting by Willamette helped the Raiders build a seven-point edge at halftime.

After scoring 20 points against William Jessup the night before, guard Drew Herrera struggled from the field (1-for-8) but still dished out nine assists. Justonn Smith hit double-digits for the sixth time this year with 13 points and six rebounds.

"The thing about our team right now is that we're becoming a little more comfortable playing with each other, and it doesn't really matter where the scoring comes from," Mackovjak said. "We're obviously going to play our best when we're playing unselfishly, and I think we're getting closer to where we need to be."

Willamette (1-3) was led by Marcus Holmes' 18 points and Cameron Mitchell's double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds), but the Bearcats were marred by 25-for-75 shooting on the game.

Josh McDermott is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at

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