For SDSU head basketball coach Scott Nagy, each game is bigger than the last. Coach-speak or not, that turned out to be the case on Feb. 25.
During a milestone night for the Jackrabbits, SDSU closed out an undefeated season at home with a 75-64 win over IUPUI in front of 3,933 fans at Frost Arena.
The Jacks finished the season 14-0 in Brookings, but it wasn’t looking great early as SDSU lacked defensive energy and fell behind 19-9. Jordan Dykstra played the first half on fire from behind the free throw line, extending his school record streak to 11 made three-pointers dating back to Feb. 18 against Buffalo. The crowd was instrumental to get the Jackrabbits over a 13-point hump in the first half, largely without Nate Wolters, and they took the lead by halftime at 39-37. As for the slow start, the explanation for that was simple according to Dykstra.
“[IUPUI] came out ready to play and we didn’t. Simple as that. It was a total team effort to get back into the game,” he said.
The Jackrabbits asserted themselves in front by opening the second half with a 10-4 spurt and found a way to deny IUPUI’s star Alex Young from taking over. Young, who some see as future NBA talent, was in trouble in the first half and finished the game with 16 points.
“Obviously, the game didn’t start the way we wanted to,” Nagy said. “We did the old switcheroo. We’re usually good in the first half and bad in the second half, and we did the opposite tonight.”
Attribute some of that to the Jacks’ toughest player and lone senior Griffan Callahan. On an emotional night for both the coach and player, Callahan’s stat line was quiet but the ovations in the pregame ceremony and when he left the game later were far from silent.
“The crowd was great tonight,” Nagy said. “I’m glad we were able to send Griffan out the way we did.”
The house also assured the Jackrabbits of their largest total season attendance since 2002-03, with over 46,000 witnessing SDSU’s best season in Division I.
Chad White and Tony Fiegen, both Madison natives, finished the game with 11 points each. Fiegen had arguably the play of the night with a one-handed thunderous slam in the second half.
In the records department, Wolters broke the school’s junior scoring record with 635 points in 30 games, breaking the mark set by Chris White in 1990-91, 633 points in 32 games. The undefeated season at home is the third for the Jacks, sharing the honor of the home marks in 1984-85 and 2002-03.
The Jacks’ seed heading into the conference tournament next weekend has been sealed for a few games but the Jacks are peaking, winning the last six and eight of the last nine. With that said, the Jacks draw the same Jaguars once again on March 3 for the first round in Sioux Falls, a dangerous matchup that will sit fresh in the minds of both SDSU and IUPUI.
“We didn’t want to just coast into the postseason play,” Fiegen said. “Coach told us in the locker room, ‘Now the real season starts.’”