Raiders pull upset of No. 17 Knights

ASHLAND — If the Cascade Collegiate Conference didn't take Southern Oregon seriously before Friday night, it almost certainly will now.

Terriel Thomas had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead four Raiders in double figures as Southern Oregon, picked seventh in the league's preseason coaches' poll, continued its surprise upswing with an 81-68 victory over 17th-ranked Warner Pacific at Bob Riehm Arena.

Thomas hit each of the five shots he took in the second half, including two key buckets down the stretch, and freshman sensation Eric Thompson added 17 points, six rebounds and three steals as Southern Oregon (12-5) earned its fifth win in six Cascade Conference games to create a three-way tie atop the league standings between itself, Warner Pacific and No. 3 Oregon Tech.

Seven years removed from their last Cascade Conference championship, the streaking Raiders, winners of three in a row and seven of their last eight, appear to be serious title contenders for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

"We're getting there," SOU head coach Brian McDermott said. "If you look at the totality of what we've done, we have five really good road wins. I don't know that there's anybody in the league that has better road wins than us. And for the most part, we've beaten people that we're supposed to beat, and I think that does put us up there. But as I told the kids, we're only six games in and this is an 18-game grind."

The Raiders struggled against Warner Pacific's zone defense in the first half, but cleaned up their act in the second half to pull away, using a quick 7-0 burst to take a 50-41 lead midway through the second half and maintaining at least a five-point cushion the rest of the way.

Southern Oregon stretched its lead to 13 points on Jordan Highland's layup with 6:10 to go before William Sharp led the Knights (12-4, 4-1 CC) back to within five, 63-58, with less than five minutes to go. But Thompson answered with a 3-pointer and Kyle Tedder hit a dagger 3 with 3:20 to go to make it 71-60 and help the Raiders pull away.

Thomas iced it moments later, capping two solid offensive possessions with inside buckets to seal the win.

Tedder finished with 15 points, six assists and six rebounds and Highland had 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Raiders, who turned the ball over 16 times in the first half and just twice in the second.

"I think in our own minds we've always been contenders," Tedder said. "This is not going to change anything for us. We're going to go out and battle every night, no matter who it is. Each team in the conference is going to be a tough game, a tough grind, and we've proven that we can grind out games."

Southern Oregon's ability to bounce back from its first-half struggles was key. Warner Pacific used its high-pressure zone defense to rattle the Raiders early, grabbing 10 steals to cut an eight-point deficit to three at the half, 34-31.

"They fly around and they tip balls," McDermott said of Warner Pacific. "We're kind of a high-risk team anyway, but we did a nice job getting the ball where it belongs tonight.

"We've got to get to our spots and if you're not in your spots against that zone then you'll end up throwing a pass that you don't want to throw, so it's just a matter of execution."

Making shots doesn't hurt, either, and the Raiders were able to do that against the Knights, who stunned Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls on Thursday night.

SOU shot 50 percent (27-for-54) for the game, outrebounded Warner Pacific 41-35 and racked up 17 assists.

Sharp scored 24 points to go with four assists and three steals for the Knights, and Biniam Tadele added 16 points and three rebounds. Sean Gaines pulled down eight boards for Warner Pacific.

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