Jackrabbit men’s basketball ends the season by struggling to win games at home and road

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

Going into the last quarter of the season, the SDSU men’s basketball finished with five of the last seven games at home. Before the Jacks headed out for their final two road games of the season, they had a date at Frost Arena with Western Illinois on Feb. 9.

The Jacks pleased the thus far season high crowd of 3,980 when they recorded their third conference win of the year against Western Illinois in the annual Pork Classic. Even in victory, all was not well as senior center Mohamed Berte suffered a season-ending arm injury that ended his career as a Jackrabbit. The 81-75 victory tied a season high in points for SDSU.

The first of the final two road games of the season started with a loss at Southern Utah on Feb. 14, 77-71. The Jacks won the first meeting between the two schools at home earlier this season, 66-62. The difference was the second-half shooting. SDSU only made six of 19 shots, 31 percent, in the second meeting, compared to hitting half of their 22 shots in the second half of the first game in Brookings.

A 78-73 loss at UMKC ended the conference road schedule and left the Jacks winless away from Frost Arena during conference play. Trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half, SDSU fought back to take a two-point lead midway through the second half. The Jacks came back, this time from a nine point deficit, to take a four point lead on the heels of a 13-0 run. Late game executing again became an issue as SDSU missed seven of their last eight shots from the field. Freshman guard, Clint Sargent, chipped in with a career-high 19 points, while Garrett Callahan added 21 points. The guard duo combined for six of the seven 3-point shots that the Jacks converted.

Long time rival North Dakota State came to Brookings on Feb. 23 and looked to spoil the Jackrabbits’ chance of finishing the season on a high note. Despite having three players in double figures for points- Ben Beran with 20, Kai Williams with 14 and Sargent with 10- and holding every Bison player except Brett Winkelman, with 14, to six points or less, SDSU lost for the seventh time in eight games, 63 to 60. Beran hit a 3-pointer that banked in off the glass as he got fouled. The subsequent free throw got the Jacks within two in the final minute. Callahan cut the margin to one with a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left, but that was a close as the Jacks would get.

If the Jacks (8-19, 3-13 Summit) would have won their last two road contests, they would have found themselves alone in eighth place in the Summit League. Instead, the Jacks seem destined to finish last in the conference during their first season in the Summit League, where they were predicted to finish in the preseason polls.

The final two games of the season will see the Jacks play teams on the opposite side of the spectrum; first place Oral Roberts and the team that SDSU is chasing to stay out of the cellar, Centenary College.