Men’s basketball opens 2019-20 with home win

Victoria Berndt, Sports Reporter

Starting out a new era of Jackrabbit basketball strong, South Dakota State opened the season under first-year head coach Eric Henderson with a 70-57 win over the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Tuesday night at Frost Arena.

“Tonight, we had to play a little bit different than maybe we are going to play normally,” Henderson said. “I certainly liked what I saw.”

Fouls had an impact on both teams throughout the game, but most heavily in the second half. UTRGV ended the game with 21 fouls, 14 of those after halftime, while the Jacks ended the night with 16 total fouls.

“We have plenty to get better, there is no doubt about that,” Henderson said. “I thought we did a fairly good job in the first half of keeping them off the foul line, we wanted to really protect the paint.”

Both sides looked to score in the paint, UTRGV had 32 points in the paint while SDSU had 44.

“They do a good job of getting to the basket and finishing at the rim,” Henderson said. “I thought they were able to get downhill a little more than I would’ve liked and that was one thing that we were going to look at and really try to get better at it instantly.”

The men made big plays against the Vaqueros, one of the key players was transfer junior Douglas Wilson. He had 24 points and five dunks on the night.

“Doug is a dynamic player and he can affect the game in many ways,” Henderson said. “He certainly showed that tonight. He has the ability to score but he is also defensively a warrior. He is really special on both sides of the floor.”

As a big playmaker and energy provider, Wilson feels that his role is to just finish plays at the basket and bring that energy for the team.

“(I’m just) doing what I do — just trying to get the ball and bring it to the basket,” Wilson said.

Alongside Wilson, sophomore forward Matt Dentlinger made quite an impact in his season debut a big one. He had a career-high 17 points, 14 rebounds and two assists.

The beauty of this team is there isn’t going to be just one player that is always hot, and this team will support whoever the hot player or players are that night, according to Henderson.

Returning to the court for the first time since 2017-18, senior guard Brandon Key had a productive game, finishing with 15 points and six assists.

“I’m very grateful to be back in Frost and playing with my brothers again,” Key said. “It is fun to work at it every day and get better as one.”

With the role of an energy guy, Key strives to keep his teammates up and just ready to go at all times.

“When we talked about Key coming back to be a part of the team, it wasn’t going to be about him, it was going to be about the team,” Henderson said. “Whatever statistics he has, I don’t really care to be honest I just want him to make sure that he is helping our team win.”

The second game of the season comes quick for SDSU, as the Jacks will be back in Frost Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, to take on Peru State.