Prayer is answered to down Jackrabbits

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

It was all set up for the Jacks to have a storybook ending. Instead, it ended like a nightmare.

With the game tied and the ball in Clint Sargent’s hands with the clock winding down, Sargent had his layup blocked with three seconds left. Western Illinois’s Josh Rivers got the rebound and heaved a half-court prayer that found the bottom of the net to extend SDSU’s all-time Summit League road record to 0-15.

The game did not have to come down to the last possession for either team to win. The Leathernecks (8-16, 5-8) turned a six-point Jackrabbit lead midway through the first half into a nine-point Western Illinois lead early in the second half. SDSU (10-15, 5-8) would then storm back and take a 59-52 advantage with 2:30 left in the game.

Without scoring another point, the Jacks would be victim to a 10-0 Leatherneck run to close the game out.

“You can get to a point where you try and burn the clock with the lead and end up taking some tough shots, and that’s what we did,” said SDSU head coach Scott Nagy.

Sargent, who led SDSU with 21 points, was one of three Jacks to finish in double-figures. Garrett Callahan had 16 points and sophomore forward Anthony Cordova finished with 15 points and six rebounds. Those three combined for 52 of SDSU’s 59 points.

“We wanted it in Clint’s hands since he was aggressive and getting good shots,” said Nagy. “(Rivers) just throws it up and hits the shot. There is not much you can do about it.”

Despite losing another late second-half lead, Nagy looks at the first half as a missed opportunity.

“It wasn’t the second half that cost us. It was the way we played in the first half where we just weren’t very good,” said Nagy. “If you are going to win games on the road, you have to be tough, and I have talked about this before. It’s easy to be tough at home and hard to be tough on the road.”

Western Illinois shot 61 percent from the field in the first half and ended up out-rebounding the Jacks 33-22, led by David Dubois’s game highs of 24 points and eight rebounds.

“Western Illinois just played a lot harder than we did,” Nagy said. “Western is a team that is getting beat by three a game on rebounds, and they beat us by 11. That just tells you the kind of effort that they gave.”

The Jacks have had a chance to win their last four games on the road. Whether it be a last-second shot, losing in overtime or losing a late second-half lead, the Jacks have not been short on opportunities to win a conference road game.

“The question is how do we respond from here,” said Nagy. “I told our players that bad things happen sometimes that you don’t have any part in making it happen, and this is one of those things. You find out about yourself when things are going bad. We have played well enough on the road these last four games to win, but we are just not getting them. I am proud of the kids. They are playing hard and not giving in.”

The two road losses make the last two home games of the season coming up that much more important.

The Jacks now find themselves in a three-way tie with IPFW and Western Illinois for seventh at 5-8 in the conference. They are also just a half game behind sixth-place Centenary (7-17, 5-7), a game back of fifth-place IUPUI (13-11, 6-7) and one-and-a-half games behind of fourth-place Southern Utah (8-15, 6-6), who will face the Jacks at Frost Arena Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. The Thunderbirds are 1-10 on the road this season and lost at Frost Arena last season 62-66.

On Feb. 14, the Jacks will face Summit League cellar dweller, Missouri-Kansas City (6-19, 2-10) in the second half of a Corduroy Classic double-header.

Even though the conference standing are a mess when trying to figure who will finish where, Nagy says that there will be no talk of who sits where in the Summit League.

“There’s not going to be any talk about who has five wins and who doesn’t because that’s just added pressure the players don’t need,” Nagy said. “These kids don’t deserve this (loss) after the effort that they put in tonight. I feel bad for them, but I am proud of them for the way that they played and got themselves back into the game. What we have to be able to do is put this behind us and get two at home.”

#1.881915:2436493391.jpg:Logo.jpg:SDSU’s sophomore guard Clint Sargent (10) flys down the court during a game against IPFW on Jan. 29. :Ethan Swanson