SDSU sweeps Pork Classic doubleheader

Victoria Berndt, Sports Reporter

In the first game of a Pork Classic doubleheader Saturday afternoon, the South Dakota State women’s basketball team kicked off the action with a 69-59 win over the University of Nebraska Omaha at Frost Arena.

Balanced offense and defense secured momentum early for the Jackrabbits. 

“I think we have just found a new level of energy that we are playing with, and it’s working for us,” senior Tagyn Larson said.

SDSU (18-7, 10-1 Summit League) didn’t get the fire lit on offense until the second quarter, but went on to outscore UNO (6-17, 1-9 Summit) 21-6 in the 10 minutes before halftime, securing a large lead the Jacks rode to the finish line.

“We had a little bit more structure in that quarter,” head coach Aaron Johnston said. “We ran a few more things. Tagyn, I thought, was really important during that time. She made some plays and got them in foul trouble.”

Larson’s final stat line was emblematic of the balance the whole team displayed throughout the afternoon. She finished just one rebound short of a double-double with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

“She has really played well offensively these last three games,” Johnston said. “She is really assertive and finding a way to impact the game offensively.”

Alongside Larson, junior Tylee Irwin fueled the fire during the second-quarter run with 10 points and three rebounds in her 13 first-half minutes. According to Johnston, she took good shots and the team needs her to continue to play well as postseason play approaches.

Although SDSU won, the second half was not as glamorous as the first. The Mavericks outscored the Jacks by 11 in the fourth quarter, making the final scoreline much closer than it was for most of the afternoon.

“Even though we weren’t really making shots, we still had a lot of effort,” Irwin said. “We ran the floor well in transition and that got a lot of different people different looks.”

Looking forward, the Jacks are ready for the final stretch of conference play.

“I think we are doing well, but we will have to be more consistent offensively, whether that’s balance, making shots, taking care of the ball — that’s always been I think something that this year it’s been a little up and down,” Johnston said. “We’ve defended really well this year, rebounded really well, played really hard. We will just have to find a consistent way to make shots.”

To cap the afternoon, the SDSU men (18-8, 9-2 Summit) carried out the doubleheader sweep, defeating UNO (12-13, 5-5 Summit) 81-64.

In the team’s first matchup this season, the Jackrabbits fell to the Mavericks by three in Omaha. But that was back in late December, and SDSU did not let history repeat itself.

The Jacks came out hopping and were led by sophomore Alex Arians. He got the crowd of 3,845 going early in the game by hitting two three-pointers and finished the first half with 12 points.

SDSU let UNO gain momentum late in the opening half, but the Jacks snuck huge energy plays in the last minute of the half to give them a 40-33 halftime lead and get Frost buzzing.

“I think that was a really big momentum swing,” sophomore Matt Dentlinger said. “We got a couple stops and really big buckets… that was good.”

As they’ve done throughout much of the season, SDSU’s two starting post players, Douglas Wilson and Dentlinger, dominated the paint with a combined 43 points. Dentlinger had 19 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Douglas Wilson finished the game with 24 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three assists.

“I don’t think we matched the physicality of Douglas Wilson or Dentlinger tonight,” UNO head coach Derrin Hansen said.

Arians finished the game with 19 points and five rebounds and was one of four Jackrabbit starters to reach double figures.

“He just makes a lot of plays and tonight he had it going and that really helped us,” Wilson said of Arians. 

Nearing the end of regular season play, the Jacks are taking it game by game and not looking too far ahead to next month’s conference tournament.

“We’ve got a long way to go yet,” SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said. “… We’ve turned the basketball over the last couple weeks at a level that will catch up to us if we’re not careful. We have to make sure we are taking care of the basketball better and not giving up as many second-chance points. If we can get better at those two areas, I think you can see this team continue to make strides.”