Behind a first-half surge and strong contributions from the bench — namely Matt Mims and Alou Dillon — the South Dakota State men seized momentum and breezed to an 87-66 win over the visiting University of North Dakota Wednesday night at Frost Arena.
“Certainly, didn’t love our efforts on the board in the first half,” head coach Eric Henderson said. “But we hung in there. I’m proud of our bench tonight, certainly some guys who haven’t played much this year.”
UND (8-11, 2-3 Summit League) did well to force a 2-for-15 shooting start by SDSU (14-7, 5-1 Summit) but struggled to get its own offense off the ground. So when the Jackrabbits broke out and went on a 19-0 run midway through the first half, UND was never able to fully recover.
“I thought we got off to a good start — we had some good opportunities in the first half where the game was still kind of tied,” said UND head coach Paul Sather, who is in his first year in Grand Forks after nine years at Northern State in Aberdeen.
Filip Rebraca, the Fighting Hawks’ Serbian sophomore forward, did well to keep his team in it early, scoring seven points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the first half, but the Jacks had the man to throw a counterpunch to Rebraca’s aggressiveness.
Douglas Wilson, after not scoring a single point during SDSU’s early offensive woes, went into halftime with 16 points, matching the Jackrabbit advantage — 41-25 — through 20 minutes.
Although UND made a run in the second half to cut the SDSU lead to six, its defense struggled and needs some work, according to Sather. Fouling was a particular weakness Wednesday. The Fighting Hawks committed 24 fouls for the game, nine of which were drawn by Wilson.
But the Jackrabbits’ 21-point blowout was shrouded by an injury to Wilson, who finished with a game-high 22 points. After going down with an apparent knee injury midway through the second half, Wilson did not return, spending the rest of the game icing his knee. The extent of his injury was not immediately known.
Though Wilson has emerged as a standout player in his first season in yellow and blue, the Jacks don’t seem too worried should Wilson miss time.
“We got weapons all over, next man up,” said Mims, who scored a career-high 14 points.
Stepping up when Wilson went down, Dillon scored 12 points in 10 minutes.
Next up the Jacks will take on the University of South Dakota at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Vermillion. The Coyotes are 11-8 overall and 2-3 in the Summit League.
“They have older guys, they have experienced this rivalry many times,” Henderson said. “… I have no doubt that we will go in there and play hard and compete like crazy. … Whatever happens, happens.”