Men’s team conquers the North Central Conference

Toby Uecker

Toby Uecker

Two wins this weekend made the South Dakota State University men’s basketball team the North Central Conference regular season champion, with two conference games left before the playoffs.

The Jackrabbits, now 21-3 on the season and 15-1 in conference play, defeated the University of Northern Colorado Friday night and followed up with a victory over the University of Nebraska-Omaha Saturday night at Frost Arena.

This season marks the 20th NCC title for SDSU and the 17th time the Jacks have won the title outright.

Friday night’s game gave the Jacks an opportunity to avenge their sole conference loss of the season, suffered at the hands of UNC last month in Greeley, Colo. SDSU did just that with an 83-71 win in front of a home crowd of 4,427. The game started close, with the teams tied at 18 six minutes into the first period. Then SDSU went on a 7-0 run that it built into a 16-point lead. The Bears closed the gap to a 44-32 halftime score.

UNC first let the lead grow to 20 points with 12:51 to play and then closed to within 10. The Bears could not, however, repeat their earlier defeat of SDSU.

Matt Jones’ 21 points led the Jacks, who shot 32-of-64 from the field.

Also in double figures were SDSU’s Derrick Schantz with 19 and Andy Moeller with 11.

UNC’s Aaron Austin, who garnered 17 points on the evening, was high scorer for the Bears, who had five players in double digits. Howard

Johnson brought in a double double with 12 points and ten rebounds.

Shooting only 1-of-8 from the field was UNC’s Michael Morse, who had scored 39 points on the Jacks in the two teams’ earlier match-up.

UNO came into Saturday’s game 12-4 in the conference and in second place to SDSU. With an 87-76 win, the Jacks ensure that UNO will be no higher than second place in the regular season.

The Mavericks led SDSU for the first ten minutes of the game, but the Jacks used a 21-7 run to put UNO behind 41-27 at the half.

UNO brought that 14-point deficit down to single digits with just over six minutes to play and came as close as five within the final minute.

Nine free throws in the last 50 seconds clinched the win for the Jacks.

Austin Hansen scored a game-high 24 points followed by Jones with 20.

Moeller added 13, and Schantz scored 10. As a team, SDSU shot 49.1 percent (26-of-53) from the field and had a rebounding advantage of 45-28.

Reserve Seth Nelson topped the Mavericks’ scoring with 17. Tola Dada and reserve Eric Wiebers each had 12, and Eddie King added 11 to UNO’s tally.

The Jackrabbits finish up their regular season next week with games in North Dakota against North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota.