Southern Oregon, St. Ambrose similar in style, talent

They're led by a guard voted conference player of the year, a coach who has revitalized the program and they shoot 3-pointers as if they're down by 20, though that's rarely the case.

No, they're not the Southern Oregon University women's basketball team, but the 18th-ranked Raiders (29-4) will likely notice a few similarities when they face 15th-ranked St. Ambrose University (28-5) Wednesday night in the first round of the NAIA Division II national tournament.

"They're young, they're guard-heavy, and they've got some really good shooters," SOU head coach Lynn Kennedy said of the Raiders' first-round opponent, the Queen Bees, who hail from Davenport, Iowa. "We didn't really see a post presence [on film], but they do have some pretty good shooters. They actually shoot the — more than we do, which is hard to believe."

Tipoff is scheduled for 9:45 p.m. local time, 7:45 Pacific, at the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City, Iowa. The game will be broadcast live in Ashland on KTMT (580-AM); live streaming video is also available on a pay-per-view basis at .

The Queen Bees are led by sophomore guard Jenny Clark, the Midwest Collegiate Conference player of the year who averages 16.1 points, 5.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Freshman guard/forward Ali Dolphin adds 15.4 points and 6.7 rebounds, and was voted the MCC's top newcomer.

The Queen Bees, seeded fourth in their quarter of the 32-team bracket, are coached by Nathan Altenhofen, who was named the MCC's coach of the year after compiling the most wins by a first-year coach in St. Ambrose history.

The Queen Bees have hit 277 of 778 3-point attempts (36 percent), and Clark has been at the passing end of many of those.

"From what I know, (Clark's) really good at setting up shots," Kennedy said. "She's more looking when she drives to dish instead of finish, like Chelsey (Muri). We need to stop their shooters first and then worry about their inside game if they go that way."

Muri is the Raiders' top offensive threat. The 5-foot-8 senior guard was voted the Cascade Conference's player of the year after averaging 15.8 points on 46 percent shooting, 3.4 assists and 2.5 steals. Unlike St. Ambrose, however, the Raiders also have a big-time scoring threat inside in Jacki Speer. The 6-1 sophomore post averages 12.1 points on 48 percent shooting and 9.3 rebounds.

On the wings, the Raiders have a pair of shooting specialists &

Whitney Scott and Rhiannon Dickison &

who have combined to hit 104 of 288 (36 percent) 3-point field goal attempts.

The Raiders, seeded fifth, are coming off a somewhat lackluster, but victorious run through the Cascade Conference tournament. Still, Muri, who played sick in the title-clinching win over The College of Idaho, said the team's confidence is as high as ever.

"The last few games showed that even if we aren't playing our best basketball that we can find ways to win, and that shows the maturity of our team," she said.

Finding ways to win is what the Raiders seem to do best. Since losing a heartbreaker to Eastern Oregon (the only other Cascade Conference team that qualified for nationals) back on Nov. 30, SOU has won 26 of 28 games, including 17 of its last 18.

Of course, their ability to execute under pressure will be put to the test like never before at nationals, where the Raiders haven't advanced past the first round since 1999. Kennedy hopes SOU's versatility and grit can change that Wednesday night.

"We've grown up a lot this year and that's how we got into this tournament," he said. "Take it one game at a time, run the game plan, do the things that we do best &

rebounding, setting the tempo and pressure defense."

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.

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