SDSU men overcome slow start, notch 22nd straight home win

Victoria Berndt, Sports Reporter

Coming back from a rough start, the South Dakota State men’s basketball team showed its composure Friday night, downing the University of Denver 90-78 at Frost Arena. 

In the first half, SDSU had 11 fouls and only 14 rebounds with four second-chance shots while DU (5-21, 1-11 Summit) had 14 fouls, 26 rebounds and 12 second-chance shots.

“In the first half, obviously we struggled a little bit, but a lot had to do with the flow,” SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said. “There were 25 fouls called in the half and we didn’t have quite as much energy as Denver did.”

Denver led by three going into halftime after a last-second 3-pointer by Alperen Kurnaz. Leading the charge against SDSU was Pioneer senior Ade Murkey. He had 16 points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes. 

“I got everything I could possibly get out of our guys,” Denver head coach Rodney Billups said. 

The energy was the story in the first half and the Jacks just didn’t have it. Shots weren’t falling and they struggled to corral many rebounds.

Jackrabbit freshman Noah Freidel attempted seven shots and came up with no points in the first half, but the second half was a different story.

“You just have to trust the process,” Freidel said. “You have to trust your teammates, if you’re open knock it down and be ready and step up.”

Freidel came to life in the second half, finishing with 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. 

“Freidel is going to be a really good player for a lot of years,” Billups said. “… The energy from a three or a dunk that the crowd gives it is electrifying for this room and it can take the wind out of the sail of an opponent which it did for us.”

The young guard wasn’t the only one to step up. All told, the Jacks scored 54 points in the second half on their way to a 22nd straight victory at home.

Even though the Jacks got outscored in the paint in the first half, that didn’t stop them from continuing to go to what has worked all season long.

Both Matt Dentlinger and Douglas Wilson scored in double digits. Dentlinger earned a double-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Wilson ended the game with 23 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

Murkey continued his offensive showcase in the second half, ending with 42 points and 11 rebounds, but his solo effort wasn’t enough to boost the last-place Pioneers to a major upset.

“He is a great player, we knew we were going to get his best tonight,” Wilson said. “… He had a good game, but I think we stopped him when we needed to.”

Next up, the Jacks take on Purdue Fort Wayne at 2 p.m. Feb. 16, in Frost Arena. When the teams met earlier this season, the Jacks came out on top 70-61.