SDSU basketball splits at Omaha

Landon Dierks, Sports Editor

OMAHA, Neb. — Sunday afternoon’s basketball doubleheader against the University of Nebraska Omaha at Baxter Arena was both a beginning and an end for South Dakota State.

For both the women’s and men’s teams, it was the opening of Summit League play but the final action of 2019. 

In the first game of Sunday’s slate, the Jackrabbit women (9-6) cruised to a 68-51 win over the Mavericks (5-9) behind a strong showing from Paiton Burckhard.

The sophomore forward shot 10-for-16 on her way to 21 points to go along with nine rebounds. Rylie Cascio Jensen joined Burckhard in double figures, shooting 4-for-6 from 3-point range on her way to 14 points.

Omaha held a slight edge early, but the Jacks sprinted out to a 23-13 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Mavericks would never threaten after that.

SDSU led 44-22 at halftime and maintained the 20-plus point advantage until under two minutes remaining in the contest — this despite a 9-0 Omaha run to close the third quarter and separate five- and four-plus minute scoring droughts in the second half for the Jackrabbits.

Health issues continue to plague the Jackrabbits, as Myah Selland, Kallie Theisen and Sydney Stapleton were not available due to either injury or illness.

Injuries also played a role in the Jackrabbit men’s game later in the afternoon.

Guards Brandon Key and Tray Buchanan were on the bench in street clothes, meaning Noah Freidel and Alex Arians were the only available members of the regular backcourt rotation.

The pair responded, scoring 44 points (Freidel had a career-high 28) on a combined 16-for-29 shooting effort, but it wasn’t enough as the Jacks fell 81-78.

Freidel and Arians were particularly effective in the first half, shooting 6-for-8 from behind the 3-point line and leading SDSU to a 42-36 at the break.

But Omaha (8-8) wouldn’t let the Jacks (9-7) pull away.

Neither team could maintain much of an advantage as the teams traded baskets throughout the second half, meaning the game wasn’t decided until the final moments.

When it came time to make the game-defining play, Matt Pile, the Mavericks’ forward who finished with 18 points and nine bounds, blocked a Douglas Wilson layup attempt with three seconds remaining.

After a pair of made free throws by Omaha, a potential game-tying Freidel 3-pointer fell short at the buzzer, giving the Mavericks the win.

Both SDSU basketball teams are back in action Jan. 2 at Frost Arena. The women tip off a doubleheader against Oral Roberts at 6 p.m. with the men’s game to follow.