Upset-minded Jackrabbits fall short against No. 14 Arizona

Trenton Abrego, Editor-in-Chief

TUCSON, Ariz. – They might have opened as 25-point underdogs, but South Dakota State gave the No. 14 Arizona Wildcats a fight Thursday night at the McKale Center. 

The Jackrabbits led as many as 10 points in the first half, but in the end, it was a second half storm by the Wildcats that boosted them to a 71-64 win. 

When it was all said and done, it was a tale of two halves for the Jackrabbits. 

In the first half, it was the defensive effort of the Jacks that gave them a three-point lead heading into the halftime break. 

Entering the game, Zeke Nnaji, the Wildcats’ power forward was averaging 21 points per game. But, if you looked just at the first half, you wouldn’t have known that. The Jackrabbits held Nnaji, (who played 10 minutes in the half) scoreless. 

It wasn’t just Nnaji who the Jackrabbits shut down. The Jackrabbits held the Wildcats to 21% from beyond the arc, and out-rebounded Arizona by five. 

In the first half, the Jackrabbit offense managed to shoot 48% from the field, 37.5% from beyond the arc and connected on all five of their turnovers. Douglas Wilson led the Jackrabbits in the first half with 13 points.

“Coach (Sean) Miller does a great job, you knew at halftime, I mean I could’ve probably said his speech for him ‘We’re going to throw the ball inside, and we’re gonna rebound like crazy,’” SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said in a postgame radio interview. 

“… Then they throw it inside and we foul them, then they get a bunch of points at the foul line,” 

It sure worked out that way. 

Coming out of the gates, the Wildcats attacked inside the paint. The Jackrabbits struggled to make the defensive adjustments and committed 17 fouls in the half. 

In the second half, Arizona went to the foul-line 23 times, and connected on 18 of those opportunities. The Wildcats were also able to capitalize on the Jackrabbits’ eight second half turnovers with 10 points off of them.

While being efficient inside the arc, the Wildcats were anything but outside the arc in the second half. Arizona went 0-for-3 and finished the game shooting 3-for-19 as a team from 3-point range.

“We did a good job, they have certain guys that really shoot it at a high level, and I thought we did a good job on those guys, and we did a good job on guarding their personnel,” Henderson said. 

But, in the second half, the Jackrabbit offense wasn’t able to capitalize on the defensive efforts.  

“When you have 21 turnovers, you sure feel like that you would want a few of those back and the game could be in your hands, and not the other teams’,” Henderson said. “… We continue to be a work in progress, and we’re going to be for awhile,”

Up next on the Jackrabbit men’s basketball slate is Mississippi Valley State, who will enter Sunday’s contest looking for its first win in the 2019-20 season. In three of their four games, the Delta Devils have allowed 110 or more points. 

That game will tip off at 2 p.m., Sunday Nov. 24 at Frost Arena in Brookings. Live coverage can be found on 90.7 KSDJ, with live tweets coming from @CollegianSports.