Jackrabbits drop three in Islands

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

The men’s basketball team knew that it would be playing some of the nation’s best teams at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 20 to 23, but that still doesn’t mean that they are satisfied finishing 0-3.

The Jacks started the tournament with the highest-ranked team that they have faced at the Division-I level, No. 7 Purdue. Despite being behind by 12 points in the first half, SDSU fought back to go into halftime down only two, 39-37.

An 11-3 Boilermaker run to start the second half was enough to put the Jacks away, with a final score of 74-63.

“Defensively, we played well enough to win this game,” said head coach Scott Nagy. “Offensively, we were bad in the second half.”

The Jacks made just seven shots over the last 20 minutes, shot 29 percent from the field and turned the ball over in four of their first seven possessions.

“If we just take care of the basketball, because they weren’t scoring, we had a chance,” Nagy said. “We absolutely had a chance to be in this game. Then late, we didn’t run plays like we were supposed to run them. We didn’t block out on free throws. We basically just handed this game over by mistakes.”

Even though the Jacks hung with one of the top-10 teams in the country and a sweet-16 team from last season, Nagy said he is not content with keeping it close.

“I am not a believer in moral victories,” Nagy said. “I am not going to pat guys on the back when they can win basketball games, and I don’t care who you are playing. One of the keys to being successful is not being satisfied. The players are probably looking at me like I am crazy, but I felt like in the second half we just handed the game to Purdue.”

There was not much time for rest, and it didn’t get any easier, as Boston College was waiting the next day.

SDSU never had a lead in the game and got behind early 17-4. Nagy said he was concerned with a slow start after a physical game the night before against Purdue, and his concerns were realized.

“We talked about the concern of our team being flat,” Nagy said. “What I pointed to in terms of the pattern is going back to last year where we played with so much energy against Oral Roberts (in the Summit League Tournament), and we came back and played so flat against Oakland. It looked almost exactly the same in terms of the mistakes.”

While the Jacks cut down on their turnovers by 10 from the game before, Nagy thought that SDSU still made too many mistakes to make the game competitive.

“I can’t even tell you the amount of mistakes that we made tonight,” Nagy said. “It’s not that Boston College isn’t a good team, but I told our players – and I don’t think I am asking too much, but maybe some people think that I am – but we should be able to play with Purdue and Boston College.”

The loss that had to hurt the most was the Nov. 23 game versus East Carolina. SDSU surrendered a 29-9 lead to lose 82-73. The game was tied at 71 with two-and-a-half minutes to go.

“We have been exposed a little bit in being soft,” Nagy said. “It wasn’t just the turnovers, it was being able to run plays and make plays in crucial situations, which we didn’t do.

“With a minute to go we were down three and had a couple of bad turnovers. Softness is very difficult to cure, but it can be curable,” said Nagy. “The only way it happens is if we admit it and we do something about it. I think in pressure situations, we looked a little bit soft.”

Freshman Nate Wolters and senior Garrett Callahan were the only Jacks to score in double figures in all three games, as Wolters averaged 10.6 points while Callahan added 13.6 points per game.

“I am pretty pleased with the way that Nate is playing,” Nagy said. “Not only on the offensive end, but defensively he is a very adept player also. He struggled early, but he’s starting to play now.”

Even though the Jacks played tough competition, the games that they let slip away can’t happen too often this season if they hope to compete in the Summit League.

“It’s ridiculous to be up 20 points and let a team come back and beat you like they did,” Nagy said. “It’s disheartening. I know that the players are very disappointed. We’re all disappointed to play in the seventh/eighth-place game no matter who is in the tournament. This is a great tournament, and we knew coming here that we were going to play three great teams and we could play great and leave 0-3 or go 3-0.

“I hope that they don’t totally forget this. I want it to bother them. I don’t want them to accept the fact that we got beat three times in a row.”