Jackrabbits defeat Mayville State, obtain first 2-0 start in D-I era

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

A dominating 89-56 win over NAIA Mayville State (4-3) on Nov. 16 was just what the SDSU (2-0) men’s basketball team was looking for as it gets ready to head to the U.S. Virgin Islands this weekend for the Paradise Jam.

While this victory wasn’t surprising, what might be for some people is that the Jacks are 2-0 for the first time in the Division I era and for the first time since the beginning of the 2003-04 season when they ran off 17 straight wins to start the year. One of the people who was not stunned is SDSU head coach Scott Nagy.

“I wasn’t stunned and I wasn’t shocked and it would be nice to get to the point where we quit using those words about our basketball team,” said Nagy. “I understand that too, because it’s not like we have been great. I don’t think anyone on our team is shocked that we are 2-0 right now.”

For the second game in a row, SDSU played 14 players. This time only two, Michael Palarca and Clint Sargent, played more than 20 minutes. It was a big difference from last year, when seven players averaged more than 18 minutes per game and two years ago when three players logged more than 30 minutes per game.

“The plan was just to play our guys,” Nagy said. “We had some guys that weren’t playing great, so you go to the bench. You better be ready when you get your chance on this team, because there is a lot of talent and if you are not ready we are going to go with someone else.

“I am not going to spend a lot of time worrying if we are hurting feelings. We are going to find the guys that can play for us. When you get your opportunity, you better take it or someone else is going to take it from you. That will make our guys play harder.”

It was the Jacks’ second-largest margin of victory in the Division I era, only to be topped by their first ever win as a D-I team against Mayville State 87-51 in November 2004.

“Today was one of those games where you win by 30 and walk into the locker room and it’s quiet,” Nagy said. “Everybody understands that we didn’t play great, but it’s also a set up game because every time we go on a big trip, we don’t play very well the game before. The difference is last year we would have struggled against this team and this year, even though we didn’t play very well we still won by 30.”

Junior forward Anthony Cordova had a game-high 16 points in 17 minutes. Sophomore guard Griffan Callahan had a game-high nine rebounds while Palarca also came off the bench to have a career high eight assists with only zero turnovers.

Freshman Chad White put on a show from three-point land making 4-of-6 behind the arc and finished with 14 points. Not only does the Madison native add quality minutes off the bench, he can also play nearly any position on the floor.

“He’s probably our most versatile player because you can play him at the point, the two, the three, the four and he can guard all those people,” Nagy said. “He gives himself a chance to play over a lot of guys because of his versatility. If he shoots the ball like that, he is really hard to guard.”

One area Nagy thinks SDSU has to improve in is rebounding. The team has won the rebounding battle in both games – by one against Wyoming and two against the Comets – but not by as many as Nagy would like.

“We need to rebound the basketball better. We are not a huge team, but we should be a good rebounding team. If you look at the Wyoming game, as big as they were, we out-rebounded them by one and everyone can’t believe it. I’m going ‘We should have out-rebounded them by more.’ It’s an important stat to me and it tells me how hard we are playing.”

SDSU now has to get ready for three games in four days at the Paradise Jam where they will start with seventh-ranked Purdue (Ind.) on Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. CST followed by either Boston College or St. Joseph’s (Pa.) in the second round. Even though the competition will be tough – Purdue reached the Sweet 16 last season and B.C. was a seven seed – Nagy thinks it will make the Jacks a better team regardless of the outcome.

“When we went to Cancun last year, we came back a better basketball team. It gave us a chance to get away and come together. I am hoping it will be the same here,” Nagy said.

“I would guess that Purdue’s coach is looking at us going, ‘These guys are a lot better than anybody thought that they were.’ We have not talked about it. I have basically forbid anyone talking about the Virgin Islands or playing Purdue until after tonight’s game.”

The Jacks will conclude the Paradise Jam on Nov. 23 with a game against DePaul, Northern Iowa, #10 Tennessee or East Carolina before coming back to Frost Arena on Nov. 28 to host Denver at 7 p.m.