The Eastern Oregon men’s basketball team opened Cascade Collegiate Conference play with a big win over rival Southern Oregon on its way to splitting the opening weekend of CCC play.
Jordan May scored a game-high 34 points — 21 of which came in the second half — and the Mountaineers rallied from a 10-point first half deficit to upset the No. 13 Raiders Friday night at Quinn Coliseum, 83-77.
“It’s a huge win. I told these guys they have the potential of beating a team like this,” Eastern Head Coach Carlito Labarda Jr. said. “(SOU) is very good.”
Landon Jones added 22 points in the win for the Mountaineers, who turned it up on offense in the second half after an icy first 20 minutes. EOU was just 35 percent from the floor at halftime, but shot 52 percent in the second half.
May was the main catalyst. The sophomore was 12-for-23 shooting on the night, including 7-for-10 in the second. He and Jones combined to score 13 of EOU’s first 16 points in the second half as Eastern built a 51-45 lead.
The Raiders eventually pulled even at 53-53 after a Tate Hoffman 3-pointer. A 3-pointer by May and jumpers by Jones and Peter Hamilton helped push the lead to 64-55 with nine minutes to play.
The margin hung between five and nine points until May iced the game in the closing minutes. He scored nine straight at one juncture for EOU, capping that personal run with a tough fadeaway jumper with 1:24 left and following it with a dagger 3 from the right wing for a 78-68 lead with just 52 seconds to play.
“We needed to get this game,” May said. “(Assistant) Coach (Chris) Kemp reminded us that this was the team that knocked us out of the conference tournament last year, and I think for a lot of the returners that helped us drive the energy in practice.”
Labarda said he talked to May at halftime about being more efficient on offense and “letting the game come to him.” It clearly paid off.
“When he does that, he may be the best player in the league offensively,” the coach said of May.
Eastern found itself in an early hole, falling behind 29-19 midway through the first half when Conor Carroll’s 3-pointer capped a 15-2 SOU run. Eastern chipped away to briefly take the lead before the teams settled into a 35-35 tie at the break.
Jones said the message throughout was for the team to stay level-headed.
“Coach told us don’t get too high, don’t get too low. Stay even,” Jones said. “It’s a game of runs. Even if they go up eight, we’re going to have our runs right back, and if we go up eight, don’t get too big of a head.”
Joel Anderson added eight points, 10 assists and five boards for the Mountaineers, and Jarek Schetzle grabbed 11 rebounds. May and Jones were also in the hip pockets of SOU, collecting four and three steals, respectively.
Tristen Holmes led the Raiders with 24 points, and Hoffman added 19.
The Mountaineers weren’t able to maintain the momentum, falling Saturday night at home to No. 22 Oregon Tech, 92-78.
EOU never led, though twice in the second half they drew even before the Owls pulled ahead for good. Like Friday, Eastern trailed by double digits in the first half before rallying, and they got within two points, 41-39, at halftime. But the Owls, who were led by 21 points and eight assists from Mitchell Fink and 20 points and nine rebounds by Kaison Faust, shot 55 percent for the victory.
May again led Eastern in scoring with 18 points. Four players joined him in double figures. Anderson had 15 points and six assists, Hamilton scored 12 points and Jones recorded 11.
EOU (5-7 overall, 1-1 CCC) travels to Whitman College Saturday.