Lockdown defense puts Jacks at top of Summit League

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Defense propelled the South Dakota State men’s basketball team to a five-game winning streak after South Dakota defeated SDSU Jan. 24 87-68 and handed the Jacks their first loss in Summit League play.

Since the Jacks (22-6,10-1) have allowed 70.5 points per game, which is four points lower than their average on the season.

“I think our guys have started to understand the importance of that end of the floor,” head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

The Jacks look to continue to excel on defense at 2 p.m. Feb. 18 when the Western Illinois Leathernecks come to Brookings. SDSU defeated WIU 98-70 Jan. 20 in Macomb, Illinois.

One guy that has helped the Jacks improve defensively is junior guard Brandon Key, who has had six steals during the winning streak.

“Brandon has been outstanding,” Otzelberger said. “I think his defensive pressure has been great. He’s really set the tone and gave the other teams’ point guards fits.”

Freshman David Jenkins Jr. came out of a scoring slump last week in wins over Denver and Oral Roberts. He scored 31 points against Denver and 16 points against Oral Roberts. He scored 43 points total in the four previous games.

Otzelberger thinks, for Jenkins to be consistent in the scoring column, he needs to focus on each side of the court.

“I think when David is focused on both sides of the basketball. He’s not only a great player for us but one of the best players in the league — and one of the best freshman out there. So we just need to make sure that he understands how important each side of the basketball is each possession,” Otzelberger said.

Senior forward Reed Tellinghuisen has made 245 three-pointers in his career and is seven away from tying Clint Sargent’s school record for three-pointers made in a career.

With the victory over Oral Roberts the Jacks secured a top-two seed in the Summit League Tournament, but with three games remaining in the regular season, Otzelberger said SDSU needs to stay focused.

“We do not talk much about conference standings. We feel like if we focus on the next day, the next game and the next possession it will give us the best chance to reach our potential,” he said.

Heading into the game against WIU, the Jacks are in first place in the Summit League, but USD is in second with a record of 9-2. Western Illinois sits in last place in the Summit League at 2-8.

SDSU and USD will play Feb. 22 at Frost Arena and, as of right now, will be playing for the regular season conference championship.

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