The two meetings between the South Dakota State and North Dakota State men’s basketball teams this season were completely different, yet the results were the same for the Jacks.
SDSU lost their 16th straight Summit League road game on Feb. 17 to the Bison 96-74 in front of 5,790 fans at the Bison Sports Arena in Fargo.
Unlike their first matchup where the Jacks held a lead in the last minute before losing at home in overtime, a NDSU run late in the first half and early in the second half put the game out of reach.
An Anthony Cordova jumper in the paint pulled the Jacks to within three points at 28-25 with just over seven minutes to go until halftime. Fast forward 12 minutes later, and the Bison had gone on a 36-12 run and led the game 64-37.
“I thought in the first half we competed decently, but in the second half, we just showed no toughness,” said head coach Scott Nagy. “I’m to the point where I think our guys are maybe afraid of these guys (NDSU), but I don’t know. The film session won’t be good, and there will be some feelings hurt, but I think it will help us get beyond this.”
Despite the lapse on defense, the Jacks went into halftime shooting over 50 percent, but as Nagy said, other factors were involved in the halftime deficit.
“We are shooting 57 percent from the field, and we are down 12 at half. Two reasons: 10 turnovers and NDSU shoots 55 percent. We just don’t guard like we are capable of guarding. That comes down to toughness.”
For the first-place Bison (21-6, 14-2), senior guard Ben Woodside had another stellar performance with 32 points and six assists. Woodside is 10th in the country in scoring with 22.9 points per game and 12th in assists at 6.3 per game. The Jacks will not be sad to see the Albert Lea, Minn., native leave, as he went 7-1 in his four years against SDSU averaging 22.6 points and 5.5 assist per game.
All was not lost, as the Jacks got another solid performance from sophomore guard Dale Moss. Coming off of a career-high 27 points the previous game against UMKC, Moss had 15 points, 10 in the first half, and four rebounds. Josh Cassaday also gave the Jacks solid minutes off of the bench, putting in four points and tying a career high with seven rebounds in only 11 minutes.
“Dale had good aggressiveness and attack to him tonight,” said Nagy. “Other than that, our guys just weren’t where they need to be. He (Moss) is playing with a lot of confidence, and if we could ever get our other players to join him, it would really help a lot.
“As far as Josh, we thought that we would get him some minutes tonight because we are going to need him down the stretch. He’s got to do a better job offensively and take care of the ball, but he’s aggressive, physical and did get on the glass for us.”
Garrett Callahan led SDSU with 19 points, while Cordova was the third man in double figures with 15 points and seven rebounds.
“My only hope is that we get to see them (NDSU) again,” Nagy said.
In order for the Jacks to see the Bison again, they will have to qualify for the eight-team Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls starting on March 7. SDSU currently sits sixth in the Summit League and while not officially guaranteed to finish in the top eight, barring a total collapse, the Jacks will be in Sioux Falls in two weeks.
“We are not going to count on other teams losing in order for us to get into the Summit League tournament,” Nagy said.
The Jacks will have two more opportunities to get that ever elusive conference road win, with the first on Feb. 19 at second-place Oral Roberts (15-13, 13-3, 8-1 at home). The season finale will be down in Louisiana against ninth-place Centenary (7-21, 5-11, 3-4 at home), a team that is in definite danger of missing out on a trip up north during early March.