Offense not enough in Jackrabbit men’s loss to USD

Landon Dierks, Sports Editor

VERMILLION — Under the tutelage of first-year head coach Eric Henderson, defense has been a priority and cornerstone of early-season success, but it was decidedly lacking against the University of South Dakota.

SDSU (14-8, 5-2 Summit League) had an efficient offensive game, shooting 53.3% from the field and 54.2% from 3, but it paled in comparison to the 64.4% and 60% marks put up by USD (12-8, 3-3 Summit) in a 99-84 loss Sunday afternoon at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.

“We have to have higher accountability on defense,” said SDSU sophomore Matt Dentlinger in a postgame radio interview. “Our ball-screen coverage wasn’t there tonight and they really exploited us on those.”

Led by 20-plus-point efforts from Tyler Hagedorn and Triston Simpson, the Coyotes held the lead for the final 26 minutes and stretched the lead to as many as 19 points in USD’s first win over SDSU in nearly two years.

“It’s big time,” said USD head coach Todd Lee in a postgame television interview with MidcoSN.

Overall, all five Coyote starters reached double figures and SDSU couldn’t quite keep pace, as only three Jackrabbits reached double figures.

“Offense for the last month hasn’t been the issue,” said SDSU head coach Eric Henderson. “We need to value that defensive stop just a little more. … I’m disappointed at how we defended, but it is what it is. You learn and you move on.

In the absence of leading scorer Douglas Wilson, Dentlinger picked up the scoring slack, recording a career-high 26 points to go along with six rebounds and seven assists. Wilson missed Sunday’s contest after injuring his knee Jan. 15.

Sunday also saw the return of guard Brandon Key, who had been out since Dec. 21 with a knee injury. He scored six points in nine minutes off the bench.

Looking ahead, the Jacks host first-place North Dakota State at 7 p.m. Jan. 22.