MERCED, Calif. — The 22nd-ranked Southern Oregon men’s basketball team leaned on its defense until its offense finally came alive against UC Merced, scoring 14 unanswered points down the stretch to pull out a 68-61 win Tuesday night at Hostetler Court.
After an ugly 7-of-25 shooting display in the first half, the Raiders (8-1 overall) found themselves down 54-45 with just over seven minutes left. That’s when senior guard Tristen Holmes started the run with a transition layup. Two Tez Allen buckets later, Holmes scooped in another one with his left hand while absorbing contact for a three-point play that gave SOU its first lead of the game, 55-54, with 4:49 to play.
Holmes totaled 13 points and nine rebounds. Allen, a redshirt freshman guard, stepped into a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock with 1:38 left to give the Raiders a 62-57 advantage, finishing with nine points, six rebounds and three assists.
Senior forward Jordan Hunt scored 13 of his game-high 15 after halftime and added seven boards and two blocks.
UC Merced (4-2) — which previously defeated Eastern Oregon and Oregon Tech on its home floor — went seven minutes with no field goals and two turnovers while SOU made its move.
Freshmen guards Teron Bradford and Jake Virga were integral to the defensive play down the stretch. Bradford recorded nine points, going 7-of-8 at the free-throw line, and Virga made all four of his late free-throw attempts.
Brad Allen added a season-high 10 points off the bench, hitting 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
The Bobcats shot 37 percent from the field (22-of-59) and were the fourth consecutive opponent SOU has held under 40. Raphael Durr’s 12 points led them off the bench.
SOU plays its last game before Cascade Conference action Friday, 4 p.m. at Menlo (Calif.).