Men’s basketball struggle in the first season in the Summit

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

In its fourth year of Division I basketball, this season could potentially result in the most wins since the move up for the SDSU men’s basketball team. This is of little comfort for anyone associated with the program.

After going 6-24 last season as an independent, the lowest season win total since the 1944-45 season, the Jacks are finding themselves at the bottom of the Summit League standings midway through conference play.

SDSU’s fortunes, a 7-13 record, 2-7 in the Summit, could be better as they have dropped nine games by nine points or less. Head Coach Scott Nagy said that he has either “young players or players that don’t know how to win.”

The first game of the season was against the University of Mary (N.D.), which was one of those games decided by nine points or less that the Jacks would win, 61-54. While it was not the dominating win over a Division II school that would have been a good sign to the season opener, it was the first opening game win in four years. It was also the first time since 1999 that the Jacks opened their regular season schedule at home.

An early 3-2 start– before SDSU started Summit League conference play– was their best since the move to Division I. The .500 start would be followed by a four game losing streak, including three games that saw the Jacks tied or down by one at halftime.

Perhaps the best overall game that the Jacks played all season was in a loss during the losing streak to the University of Minnesota. Even though SDSU lost 78-72, they held a one-point lead over the Gophers with five and a half minutes left before an 8-2 Minnesota run sealed the victory. Garrett Callahan had a big part in the near upset scoring a career-high 28 points.

The Jacks would bounce back with back-to-back wins at home against Idaho and Denver to get within a game of .500 at 5-6. It looked like the Jacks would get back to .500 at Cal State Bakersfield only to lose in overtime 73-71. If the loss to the Roadrunners was tough to handle, the next game at San Jose State would prove to be devastating.

The result was much like the Bakersfield game, a 77-71 Jackrabbit loss. However, the way the Jacks lost the game would be the story. SDSU’s biggest lead of the game came with 8 and a half minutes left in the second half when they were ahead 57-40. The next six minutes would see the Spartans go on a 21-4 run that tied the game at 61.

The next game at home against Oakland (Mich.) would produce a third heartbreaking loss as the Jacks lost 73-72 on a controversial goal tending call in the final minute. The first Summit League win would come on Jan. 5th at Frost Arena against IPFW. The only other conference win also came at home against Southern Utah on Jan. 19.

The best single game performance of the year so far would have to be Kai Williams’s effort Dec. 6 at Centenary (La.) in the first ever Summit League game in SDSU history. Not only did Williams deliver a career-high in points with 28, but he also pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds. The last time a Jackrabbit had that many rebounds in a game was on November 2002 when Derrick Schantz had 18 boards against the Colorado School of Mines.

Senior Forward Ben Beran carved his name into the SDSU record book this season by becoming a member of the 1,000 point club on Nov. 28 during a win at Idaho. Beran currently sits 18th on the Jackrabbit all-time scoring list with 1,160 points. If he maintains his current 11.6 points per game average, he will finish his career 14th on the list.

The Jacks currently sit last in the ten-team Summit League but have a chance to climb out of the basement with five of the last seven games at home. The men’s next game on the road is Jan. 31 at IPFW followed by a trip to Oakland on Feb.2 . The Jacks return home Feb. 7 to play IUPUI. The question now is to see if this team can learn how to win and get back to the winning ways of the Division II era?

The Jacks will to IPFW and Oakland(Mich.) this weekend.