Ready for rivals

ASHLAND — Little was known about Southern Oregon University incoming freshmen Kyle Tedder when Cascade Conference coaches selected the Raiders to finish dead last this season.

If the scoring sensation can lead SOU to a victory this Saturday over rival Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, few will be able to deny the impact he has had.

The Raiders take a three-game winning streak east this weekend for a 5 p.m. game against the eighth-ranked Owls that begins the push for the playoffs.

Tedder, averaging 14.5 points per game, and junior forward Jordan Highland, averaging 15.7, have paced a Southern Oregon (12-6, 5-3 CC) team currently in three-way tie for second place.

However, the road to the playoffs runs through Danny Miles court in the Klamath Basin, where OIT (17-2, 8-0) owns a 48-game home winning streak.

Highland has gobbled up rebounds and Tedder has poured in buckets, but it's been a surprisingly stingy defense had has helped the Raiders into the upper half of the conference. They are allowing only 66.7 points per game and opponents are shooting just under 40 percent from the field.

But for the team to have any chance in a hostile environment, it will have to take extra care of the ball.

"We can play really, really well over there and still get beat," said head coach Brian McDermott. The key, he said, will be valuing the basketball.

Oregon Tech turns the ball over sparingly, as evidenced by their four combined turnovers in consecutive victories over Eastern Oregon and Corban. Three or four loose possessions can easily translate into a double-digit deficit.

"We will stress that we need to stay aggressive," said McDermott. "But, we can't take too many chances out there."

After sitting out a Jan. 3 game against Simpson with a foot injury, Tedder roared back, scoring 18 and 33 points against Evergreen State and Northwest, respectively. He was named conference player of the week for last week.

"(Sitting) gave (Tedder) three nights off in a row and it really helped him," McDermott said. "Hopefully by this weekend, we will have him at the healthiest he's been in a while."

Southern Oregon needs as much help as it can get while trying to make the playoffs in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. The Raiders have 11 regular season games left, with four of them against NAIA top-25 ranked teams.

The Southern Oregon University women's basketball team also travels to Klamath Falls this weekend for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Owls. The Raiders (12-8, 5-3) look to take control of their playoff destiny when they face Oregon Tech (10-10, 2-6) after the men's game.

"The years I've been at SOU, this game is never about match ups or who has the better team," said head coach Lynn Kennedy. "It will always be a great game no matter who is 'better.'"

Southern Oregon relies on the strong inside presence of Alexi Smith, who is averaging 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, and clutch performances from a variety of senior role players.

"Our close wins show we are right there," said Kennedy. "Our determination and practices are paying off. Our conditioning is where we can play any style and it has really shown in our last couple of victories."

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