South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

SDSU hopes great offense, experience lead to first tournament win

Abby Fullenkamp
ABBY FULLENKAMP The South Dakota State men’s team celebrates after clinching a NCAA Tournament bid under the direction of head coach T.J. Otzelberger.

After winning the Summit League Men’s Basket ball Tournament March 6, South Dakota State earned a berth in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. SDSU found out Monday that it’s No. 12 seed and will face the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the tournament.

The Jacks (28-6,13-1) have won 11 games in a row and 19 of their last 20. Head coach T.J. Otzelberger said he thinks SDSU is playing its best basketball of the season heading into the tournament.

“I think our guys are playing well together and are having fun, which is a big part of it this time of the year,” Otzelberger said. “I think we’re focused defensively and sharing it well offensively.”

SDSU played arguably its best game of the season offensively in the Summit League championship game when they defeated South Dakota 97-87. The Jacks shot 47.7 percent and made 14 of their 28 attempted three-pointers.

Junior forward Mike Daum said although they are clicking on offense, there is still some work to be done before their game against OSU.

“There’s still better basketball to be played in front of us,” Daum said. “Spacing is something we can work on and defense is something we can always improve on, locking down in key moments of the game.”

The Jacks rely on their offense to get wins and the stats back it up. SDSU averages 84.5 points per game, which is seventh best in the NCAA, and give up 74.1 points per game, which is 221st in the NCAA.

Their offense will go up against one of the toughest defenses they’ve faced all year against OSU. The Buckeyes (24-8, 15-3) give up only 66.7 points per game, which is 42nd in the NCAA.

“They’re a physical defensive team. They went 15-3 in the Big Ten and have the Big Ten Player of the Year. Any time you can go 15-3 in a league like the Big Ten, you’re doing something well and that’s certainly the case,” Otzelberger said.

The Big Ten Player of the Year was OSU’s senior forward Keita Bates-Diop. He averages 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season and will be a tough matchup for the Jacks.

“Our guards have to help our big guys and crack down on getting rebounds. It’s going to be a team effort to get rebounds and we have to play good team defense,” senior guard Skyler Flatten said.

Bates-Diop will likely be guarding Daum and no one has been able to shut down Daum yet this season. The 2018 Summit League Player of the Year is averaging 23.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

Even though OSU does not give up a lot of points, the Jacks should still be able to score because they take care of the basketball.

SDSU turns it over 10 times per game, which is the seventh fewest in the NCAA and turns it over on only 13 percent of its possessions, which is the best in the NCAA. The Jacks also make 10.6 three-pointers a game and shoot 40 percent from three.

Ohio State doesn’t necessarily struggle against the three, but they aren’t excellent either. The Buckeyes give up just over seven three’s a game and allow their opponents to shoot 34.6 percent from three. This should allow the Jacks to get open looks.

SDSU has never won a game in the tournament, but senior forward Reed Tellinghuisen thinks the Jacks can use the experience they gained the last two seasons to help them pull off an upset against OSU.

“It’s a different environment. As good as the PREMIER Center is, (the NCAA Tournament) is a bigger venue and an awesome experience,” Tellinghuisen said. “We have to do what we do best. Take it play by play, possession by possession. If something goes wrong, look toward the next possession.”

Freshman guard David Jenkins Jr. will make his debut in the tournament against Ohio State and is coming off one of his best performances of the season, scoring 29 points and grabbing six rebounds in the conference championship game.

“He likes the big moment and spotlight. He really stepped up in conference tournament, so we don’t anticipate anything will be different here,” Otzelberger said.

This isn’t the first time SDSU has faced a “power five” school. The Jacks defeated Ole Miss and Iowa earlier this season and nearly defeated Colorado and Wichita State. Otzelberger said that will help prepare the Jacks for the Buckeyes.

“Playing teams that are a little bigger and more physical, gets you ready for games like this, so I think our guys are prepared,” he said.

The one thing Otzelberger said the Jacks need to do if they want to get their first tournament victory is improve their defensive rebounding.

Tip off is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.

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