Men drop first game of season to Southern California

Trenton Abrego, Editor-in-Chief

LOS ANGELES — A five-day road trip in ‘The Golden State’ had a not-so-golden ending as South Dakota State dropped an 84-66 contest to the University of Southern California Tuesday night. 

In front of 2,210 fans at the Galen Center, USC senior forward Nick Rakocevic put together a double-double with 27 points and 16 rebounds. Behind the forward’s performance, the Trojans led for nearly 37 minutes.

The Jackrabbits led twice, the second and last time coming with more than 14 minutes left in the first half, and only saw the lead get as big as a lone point.

It was at that juncture when the Trojans started to run away. In seven minutes, they took back the lead and grew it to 16 points.

Then, the Jackrabbits found their momentum and started to close the gap.

“Finally, I told our guys with ten minutes to go, just be really aggressive,” SDSU coach Eric Henderson said in a radio interview. “… I was really happy with the second part of the first half.” 

Coming out of the break, the Jackrabbits continued to cut the Trojan lead, eventually pulling within a single point with 15 minutes to play.

“And then, yeah, things kind of fell apart for us,” Henderson said. 

Over the course of the next three minutes, the Trojans went on an 11-0 run.

To make matters worse for the Jacks, freshman David Wingett, who was second on the team with 10 points, fouled out with five minutes to play in the second half. 

In those five minutes without Wingett, the Trojans closed the door with an 18-7 run.

Douglas Wilson, who led the Jacks with 15 points, also fouled out of the contest late.

It wasn’t just Wilson and Wingett who found themselves in foul trouble. As a team, the Jackrabbits committed 26 personal fouls, and, in turn, sent USC to the foul line 30 times. 

Combining the foul trouble, a minus-seven turnover margin and a minus-five rebounding margin, the formula wasn’t there for a Jackrabbit victory. 

“We kinda got rocked on the glass tonight, they shot 30 free throws,” Henderson said. “You’re going to have a really hard time winning games when you do that, especially when you are on the road.” 

According to Henderson, the biggest disappointment from the loss was the ability to handle adversity. 

“We just kind of showed our youth a little bit,” Henderson said. “… We grabbed, we held, then it was the ref’s fault, then it was this guy’s fault, that’s the part that was disappointing. … I still love them, but we got to learn from that. I have their back, I’m always going to have their back.” 

Up next, SDSU will head to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a showdown with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15.

“They [the Cornhuskers] are going to be hungry, we know that,” Henderson said. “… We just need to get back to us, stay together, not necessarily worry about the results.”