Jacks reclaim first place, notch 20th straight home win

Victoria Berndt, Sports Reporter

Points in the paint secured the win for the South Dakota State men in their matchup against North Dakota State Wednesday night inside Frost Arena 78-73.

After a loss against the University of South Dakota Sunday afternoon, SDSU (15-8, 6-2 Summit League) came out strong against NDSU (13-7, 4-2 Summit), scoring 48 points in the paint with the return of Douglas Wilson.

Wilson didn’t play against USD due to a knee injury but came back to score 20 points on 10-for-15 shooting in an important contest for standing in the conference.

Without Wilson, the Jacks’ defense allowed 60-plus percent shooting from the Coyotes, but the Jackrabbit defense thrived against the Bison in the first half. The Bison shot just 33.3% and 2-of-15 from 3 as the Jacks led 34-22 at the break.

Unable to hold down the Bison into the second half, NDSU went on an early run to dwindle the Jacks’ lead to just three points — it didn’t break the Jacks’ stride though. 

Although the Jacks were the younger team in this matchup, they showed an ability to step up in key moments. Though the Bison looked poised to tie up the game or take the lead at several points in the second half, SDSU never let them get closer than three points. Tyson Ward led the Bison’s second-half charge, scoring 20 of his game-high 24 points after halftime.

For the Jacks, the starting posts contributed 41 of the 78 points. Matt Dentlinger led all Jackrabbits with 21 points to go with Wilson’s 20 points. Sophomore Alex Arians had a double-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

“That kid (Arians) is doing an unbelievable job of running our team,” SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said. “He helped us play poised … a lot of credit goes to him.”

A crowd of over 3,000 were on hand to witness SDSU’s 20th consecutive home victory (the third-longest streak in the nation) and created a great atmosphere for basketball that didn’t go unnoticed by the Jackrabbit players.

“One huge advantage that we have is the fans, the environment that we have in Frost is an advantage that no other team in this conference has,” Arians said. “We feed off of all of the fans’ energy and I think that showed tonight.”

The Bison knew it would be a tough matchup, but coach David Richman wasn’t too displeased with their performance.

“Toughness isn’t defined by your ability to break somebody, it’s your mental toughness and your focus,” NDSU head coach David Richman said.

In the end, it was the Jackrabbits who displayed enough toughness to take the conference lead from the Bison and hand them just their second conference loss.

Up next, the Jacks head to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to take on Oral Roberts at 7 p.m. Jan. 29.