Jacks thump Oakland in O.T.

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

With just under 18 minutes left, a Keith Benson free throw completed a three-point play and put Oakland in front of the SDSU men’s basketball team 45-28. Five-and-a-half minutes later, the game was tied.

The Jacks (10-13, 5-6 Summit) came back from a 17-point deficit to win in overtime 74-68 on Jan. 31 at the 37th Pork Classic in front of 5,740 fans at Frost Arena.

From the nine-minute mark to the final 15 seconds of the second half, Oakland (13-11, 6-5 Summit) outscored the Jacks 3-2. In the final 15 seconds, the Jacks outscored the Golden Grizzlies 3-2 on a Clint Sargent 3-pointer followed by a layup by Oakland’s Johnathon Jones to force overtime.

The clutch play of the extra session was a Kai Williams’ layup off an offensive rebound with 17 seconds left. The following free throw put the Jacks up five and closed the game out.

“It was just ugly the first half,” said Williams. “We started hitting shots and making plays defensively in the second half. The crowd was great tonight, and I think that definitely took us over the top.”

Williams had a double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Head coach Scott Nagy went into halftime using some tough love to motivate his players for the second- half comeback.

“I told my players how I feel about you has nothing to do with performance. Whether they perform good or bad, I love them to death, so I go into halftime thinking what is the best way I can love them, and sometimes the best way to do that is to kick them in the can. That was what they needed,” Nagy said. “Sometimes when you kick people in the can, they’ll fold up and get into the fetal position and can’t take it, but our guys really responded.”

A key to the second-half charge was the Jacks’ ability to rebound, especially on the offensive end. SDSU out-rebounded Oakland by nine and dominated on the offensive end 22-14.

“We got on the glass like crazy,” said Nagy. “Twenty-two offensive rebounds is incredible. In the second half, we defended and were physical.”

The 22 offensive rebounds were the most for the Jacks since Nov. 24, 2005.

“It’s definitely a big win, and all of our wins the rest of the season are going to have to be big wins because we have to get back in the mix and push for a better spot in the conference,” said Williams.

“With the way the second half started off slow, had that been the team of last year or two years ago, we would have lost by 30,” said Nagy. “We just stuck around and went on a little run, and the people that stayed got a good show.”

For Oakland, Benson led all players with 18 points, 15 rebounds and a school record eight blocks. His performance earned him Co-Summit League Player of the Week.

The Jacks now find themselves in a three-way tie for the fifth spot in the Summit League with IUPUI (12-10, 5-6 Summit) and Southern Utah (7-15, 5-6 Summit) with seven games to play.

SDSU goes on the road for their next two games, the first of which is against IUPUI on Feb. 5 at 6 p.m., as they look to put some distance between themselves and the bottom half of the league. Earlier this season at Frost, SDSU won 83-69.

“We can’t come out on Thursday against IUPUI and be flat,” said Williams. “We have taken some steps at home, but to take bigger steps as a program, we have to start winning on the road.”

The Jacks will then head to Western Illinois (7-15, 4-7 Summit) for a 7 p.m. tip-off Feb. 7 with the hope that they can win one of these two games for their first Summit League road victory. The Jacks also defeated Western Illinois in their first meeting of the year at Frost 64-55.