Men’s hoopsters look to improve on the road

Zach Perry

Zach Perry

The SDSU men’s basketball team will take to the road for their next two games against the Minnesota (UM) Golden Gophers of the Big Ten Conference and the Denver Pioneers of the Sun Belt Conference, starting Dec. 10 against the Gophers in Minneapolis at 8 p.m.

SDSU (4-5, 1-1) continues to try to find some continuity, as they have not been able to hold a winning streak longer than two games going in the season.

The Jackrabbits split two conference games in the past week, with a 71-58 victory over Centenary and an 85-76 loss to Oral Roberts. A win against Minnesota (8-0) on the road could be the spark the Jacks need to jumpstart a positive run.

The Jackrabbits are led offensively by junior guard Garrett Callahan, who averages 18.6 points per game. Sophomore guard Clint Sargent and junior forward Kai Williams also average double figures in scoring per game, with 13.7 and 10.6 points, respectively.

Minnesota had a strong start to the season, but the Gophers have not played a tough non-conference schedule. UM’s biggest wins have been a one-point road victory – their only road game of the season thus far – against Colorado State and a 66-56 win over the Virginia Cavaliers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Minnesota is coming off of a 71-54 win over Cornell in a game during which the Gophers trailed by 12 at halftime.

The Gophers have a balanced offensive attack that is led by junior guard Lawrence Westbrook, who averages 14.4 points per game. Though he plays significant minutes, Westbrook has only started in half of Minnesota’s games.

No other player averages double-digits in scoring for the Gophers, but as a team, they have shot 48 percent and averaged 73.9 points per game.

If SDSU uses their typical three-guard set, the Jacks may find it difficult to match up with 6-foot-10-inch freshman Colton Iverson, who played for Yankton, S.D., in high school.

Iverson is averaging 8.8 points per game and has started in every game this season for the Gophers. The tallest starter for the Jacks is Anthony Cordova at 6-feet-7 inches.

Last season, the Jackrabbits played tough against Minnesota but lost 78-72 in Minneapolis. The Gophers finished 20-14 last year and finished sixth in the Big Ten Conference.

SDSU will face its next opponent, the Denver (DU) Pioneers, in Denver on Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. (CST).

Denver (1-6) has struggled so far this season and just recently won their first game 67-65 against the University of Texas-Arlington.

The Pioneers are a young team and do not have a senior on their roster. Junior forward Nate Rohnert leads the team, averaging 15.3 points and six rebounds per game. Rob Lewis – a 6-foot-7-inch sophomore forward – is second on the team in scoring and averages 12.8 points per game.

Through six games this season, DU has shot just over 44 percent from the field but has allowed opposing teams to shoot just over 50 percent. The Pioneers turn the ball over more than their opponents, and Denver’s opponents average five more rebounds per game than the Pioneers.

Last season, SDSU defeated DU 56-52 in Frost Arena. In that meeting, Kai Williams played all 40 minutes and scored a game-high 25 points for the Jacks. Rob Lewis scored 14 points in that game for the Pioneers.

The Jacks should match up well with Denver, as the Pioneers do not list a center on their roster. Denver will likely use three forwards in most situations, and the Pioneers lack the height that the Jacks will face in the Minnesota game.

In the Sun Belt coaches’ preseason poll, Denver was picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in the league’s West Division.