Men’s team falls to Oakland

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

A season-best crowd of 4,064 saw the Jacks’ first conference home loss in exactly a year, as the SDSU men’s basketball team could not hold off first-place Oakland, falling 85-82 at Frost Arena on Jan. 23.

A 17-0 first-half run during a four-and-a-half minute stretch midway in the first half turned a four-point Oakland lead into a 30-17 Jackrabbit advantage. The Golden Grizzlies (15-7, 9-0) chipped away, trailing by only five at halftime before taking the lead for good in the final two minutes.

“If you are going to feel bad after a game like our kids do, I would rather feel the way we feel tonight than feel like some games we’ve had where we don’t have effort,” said head coach Scott Nagy. “I thought that our effort was good tonight and our kids played hard and physical.

“I think you just have to give Oakland credit,” said Nagy. “They were just a little bit tougher, and when the game got tight, they made the plays and we didn’t.”

Part of the reason for Oakland’s comeback, Nagy thought, was at the end of the first half when SDSU had three turnovers in a one-minute span. That’s when OU cut the Jacks’ lead from 11 to five.

“That’s the ball game. We had some chances in the first half, and the first half is where we blew the game.

“Probably the last four minutes of the first half, I thought that we had a good chance to stick it to them and they just turned up the pressure, and I felt like we melted and were not very tough at that point,” Nagy said. “You can look at a lot of things, but that four-minute period was probably the worst four-minutes period for us.”

The Jacks had chances, but failed to capitalize as they missed three of their last four shots and missed three free throws in the final 1:30.

“It’s not like you can make every free throw,” Nagy said. “I think if you look at the free throw percentages of anybody, when games are tight, they tend to go down.”

In the first half, it looked as though free throws would be the deciding factor in the game. For Oakland, however, OU hit on just 42 percent (8-19) of their attempts in the first half before turning it around and going 15-19 (79 percent) in the second half. Leading the charge was junior center Keith Benson who was 11-14 from the line with a game-high of 23 points and 11 rebounds.

“We didn’t do a good enough job on him,” Nagy said. “We may have to change things up next time we play him. We can’t give him 23 points and put him on the line 14 times. There were a couple times where it was way too easy for him and we can’t do that. We have to make other people beat us.”

Kai Williams led four Jacks who had double figures with 14 points and six rebounds.

In third-place, SDSU (10-10, 6-3) has an upcoming trip to Centenary (7-13, 2-7) on Jan. 28 for a game at 7 p.m. followed by a Jan. 30 meeting with Oral Roberts (11-10, 6-3) at 7:30 p.m. The Jacks were victorious at the previous meeting with both teams at Frost Arena earlier in the season and will look to do a repeat on the road this weekend.

“Now the test will be to have beaten two teams and go to their place, because that’s when you really have to be tough,” said Nagy. “They are going to be sitting ready for us. We have not done that since we have been in the league, we have not swept a team and to go into their place and do it is the toughest thing to do.”