Jamie Lusch/The Siskiyou
Sophomore Josh McDermott helped SOU keep up early on.
It was more of the same old story as the Southern Oregon men’s basketball program suffered its 17th straight loss to Oregon Tech Saturday night.
The Owls of OIT had four players who scored in double digits and two players who tallied double-doubles in their 80-60 win over the rival Raiders.
McNeal Pavilion may have never been louder than it was early on in the game. The SOU student section was a sea of black, and they were in a tizzy in hopes of a rivalry upset. About a third of the crowd traveled from Klamath Falls to cheer on OIT. They even brought the Hustlin’ Owl mascot. The combating crowds were at it from the tip-off.
Early on, the Raiders kept pace with OIT in fast paced, back-and-forth action. OIT’s Joshua Wetzler got off to a good start as he scored six points and grabbed two rebounds in the first four minutes, and OIT had the early lead, 11-6.
The Raiders were able to take advantage of a handful of OIT fouls and turnovers as they drew even with the Owls at 16 with 13:44 to go in the first half.
Midway through the first half with the lead changing hands rapidly, the Owls went to a bigger lineup, which meant tougher defense and better rebounding for OIT. It was then that SOU endured a five and a half minute stretch where they could muster only one rebound. Josh McDermott kept the Raiders close with good penetration to the hoop leading to a pair of layups, one of which resulted in a 3-point play.
OIT kept running and out-shot the Raiders from the field to lead at the half by nine, 43-34. The Owls shot 51 percent from the field in the first half to SOU’s 36 percent. Free throws kept SOU in the ball game as they got to the line twice as much as the Owls and shot 91 percent from there.
The second half started more slowly than the first, and OIT methodically widened the scoring gap. The Owl lead reached 19 seven minutes into the half, and SOU was never able to close the gap within 15 the rest of the night.
OIT out-rebounded the Raiders 23 to 13 in the second half. The Owls shot 47 percent on the night and were led in scoring by 5-foot 5-inch senior point guard Levell Hesia. Hesia also led OIT in assists with six. OIT’s Ryan Fiegi and Joshua Wetzler each had double-doubles. Fiegi had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Wetzler put up 16 points on 8-11 shooting to go along with his game-leading 15 rebounds in only 22 minutes on the court. Seven of Wetzler’s boards came on the offensive end.
SOU did not have any scorers in double digits, as Chuckie Ivey, Jason Nunnemaker and Matt Cowell each led the Raiders with nine points. Ben Krasowski came off the bench for 10 minutes and registered five assists to lead the team. Matt Pizzola led SOU with six rebounds.
“They are just better than we are right now,” said SOU coach Brian McDermott. “In the past that hasn’t been true. Those three guards are as good as you are going to get anywhere. They make everything work. They’ve got perfect role players. They’ve got people that will sit out there and shoot it and they’ve got Wetzler. They only have to worry about getting shots from three guys, and those three all pass it as well as anybody in the league. They’re good. How they have three losses, I don’t know.”
The Raiders are left looking ahead to the remaining four games of the season and hoping for a hot streak going into the conference tournament.
“We’ve just got to get better,” said McDermott. “We’ve got to keep working at getting better and hope we can make a little run and make some special things happen in the tournament.”
The Raiders will play their final two home games of the season as they host Eastern Oregon Friday, Feb. 9 and Albertson College for senior night on Saturday, Feb. 10.