For as bright of a start the Raiders had at Lithia Motors Pavilion on Tuesday night, the end product wasn’t nearly as prosperous.
The No. 18-ranked Southern Oregon men’s basketball team led for the majority of the night, but it was arch-rival and No. 14-ranked Oregon Tech that came with the 77-70 win and hand the Raiders their first-ever defeat at Lithia Motors Pavilion.
In a week that could go a long way in determining whether SOU will be a player for the Cascade Conference title this season, things didn’t start out all that well to begin a huge three-game homestand.
The Owls simply chipped away at the Raiders’ 13-point first-half lead and then flipped the script on SOU come the final seven minutes.
The loss dropped SOU (13-5, 3-4) into a four-team jumble in the CCC standings, with all teams falling three games back in the loss column behind the early pace setters.
Oregon Tech (15-4, 6-1) started its day by moving up 10 spots in the national rankings. The Owls finished it by moving into a tie for first place in the conference standings with defending CCC champion College of Idaho with the win.
The Owls — who trailed 40-34 at halftime — didn’t take their first lead of the night until there was 6:45 to go in the game, with Tyler Hieb and Mitchell Fink proving to be OIT’s 1-2 punch down the stretch.
Matt Van Tssell’s tip-in gave OIT its first lead of the night at 58-57, then Hieb’s 3-pointer in the very next possession quickly put SOU in its first hole the entire game.
In total, Oregon Tech’s 13-2 run proved to be the game changer, with Hieb scoring eight of his 20 points in the game during the spurt.
Fink, the CCC’s co-Player of the Year last season, finished with a team-high 21 points.
Hieb and Fink, the only two Owls in double figures, combined to hit six of OIT’s seven 3-pointers in the game.
Southern Oregon senior guard Tristen Holmes once again led the way offensively for the Raiders, recording a game-high 24 points, 13 of which coming in the second half.
Holmes has now scored at least 20 points in six of Southern Oregon’s last eight games.
Holmes’ reverse layup pulled SOU with three points at 64-61, but that was as close as the Raiders got in the closing moments.
Raiders junior forward Jordan Hunt had 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double in the last six games, while redshirt freshman guard Tez Allen finished with 13 points, one point off his career high.
Led by Van Tassell, OIT’s bench outscored the SOU reserves 26-6 in the game.
SOUTHERN OREGON 69, OREGON TECH 65, OT: At Ashland, the trio of Ariel Augustine, Syd Fryer and Kenadee Honaker all hit free throws to break a 65-all tie in the last 40 seconds of overtime as No. 19-ranked Southern Oregon held on to beat Oregon Tech at Lithia Motors Pavilion.
A back-and-forth game without much separation from the onset, OIT forced overtime when it tied the game at 59-59 with three seconds to go in regulation on a jumper in the paint by Nohea Waiwaiole.
The Raiders (11-4, 7-2) — who trailed by as many as 10 early in the second half — only held the lead once in OT prior to the final minute, with Augustine hitting a 3-pointer with two minutes to go.
Augustine, SOU’s leading scorer this season at just under 14 points a game, paced the Raiders with a game-high 22 points and hit four 3-pointers in the win.
SOU point guard Daranda Hinkey finished with 14 points in a team-high 35 minutes, while Destinee Jones nearly recorded a double-double with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Fryer finished with a game-high 10 rebounds for the Raiders, who have gone a perfect 3-for-3 at home to open the month of January.
The Owls (10-7, 4-3) were led offensively by Bailey Nelson, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Abby Kreiser and Megan Morris both added 13 points.
Southern Oregon, which is a perfect 6-0 at its brand new gym this season, continues its five-game homestand to open 2019 when it hosts Northwest Christian at 5:30 p.m. Friday night.
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.