Jacks upset bid falls short

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

SDSU appeared outsized and outmuscled on paper and on the floor, but they never appeared outmatched. That is, until the last five minutes of regulation.

A 40-39 rebounding edge in the Jackrabbits’ favor was not enough to overcome 16 turnovers as SDSU fell to No. 16 Minnesota 85-73 in Williams Arena Dec. 23.

Those turnovers led to 15 additional Golden Gophers points and dug a hole that otherwise wasn’t noticeable at the end of the first half, with the Jacks down five points after leading by as many as nine.

“I felt like we gave away the game in the first half, not the second half,” said SDSU head coach Scott Nagy, now 0-6 in six consecutive seasons playing Minnesota and 0-5 against Division-I ranked opponents. “We should have been ahead at halftime but we just had some kids that were completely out of it.”

Part of that instability in the first half manifested itself midway through the game’s first twenty minutes. A five-minute scoring drought that included four turnovers were so damaging that SDSU didn’t even facilitate a field goal attempt. The Gophers used that scoring depletion to go on a 13-0 run, erasing the Jacks’ seven-point lead and creating a six-point deficit.

But the Jacks relented early in the second half after quickly falling down 10 within a minute of the final period. A Clint Sargent three-pointer gave SDSU a one-point lead with 8:14 left in the game, and that was before the senior tallied eight points to propel a 30-19 scoring run in the middle of the second half. Those open looks for Sargent – who finished with a season-high 23 points – were attributed to sophomore Nate Wolters’ passing ability. Wolters would finish with 11 assists and an additional 16 points, but turned the ball over a season-high seven times.

“It’s one of those things where you try and be aggressive, but I made a couple bad mistakes,” said Wolters, who was defended by Gophers guard Al Nolen, a senior guard in his first game back from injury.

Minnesota’s conspicuous size advantage showed itself throughout. Griffan Callahan, at 6-5, routinely guarded Yankton native Colton Iverson, 7-1. Iverson finished with 15 points, shooting a stalwart 5-of-6 from the field. To that extent, the Gophers combined for 44 points inside the paint, accounting for over half of Minnesota’s scoring output.

Those stats, however one-sided, weren’t enough to keep SDSU’s hopes for an upset minimized. SDSU’s lead of one point with just over eight minutes to play was the longest the Jacks had a lead against Minnesota since 2007, and that Gophers squad finished 20-14.

“We’re to a point now where we’re really not interested in just playing Minnesota,” said Nagy. “We want to come up here and win, and I don’t think anyone is feeling particularly good about the fact that we lost.”