Jackrabbits, Bison split games in rivalry series


Evan Patzwald, Sports Reporter (He/Him)

South Dakota State split their games with rival North Dakota State over the weekend and dropped to third place in the Summit League standings with one week to go in the regular season.

A game-winning 3-pointer from Nebraska-transfer Charlie Easley gave SDSU a 68-67 win over NDSU in the final seconds Friday night.

The Jackrabbits and Bison were tied at 65 with just under a minute left after a big play from Baylor Scheierman, out of a timeout. NDSU’s Rocky Kreuser would make a hook shot over Douglas Wilson the next play, followed by Easley’s 3-point shot on the ensuing possession. Wilson locked down Kreuser on the final possession, as NDSU did not get a shot off during the last play.

“We certainly didn’t play our best,” SDSU coach Eric Henderson said postgame. “More often than not you’re gonna have to make some plays. We didn’t play great, but we found a way to win.”

SDSU (13-6, 7-3) was in a three-way tie atop the Summit League standings with South Dakota and NDSU coming into the weekend. They also played their first game without sophomore Noah Freidel since his announcement to sit out the rest of the season to focus on his mental health.

NDSU (12-10, 10-4) looked rusty coming out of their bye week as they trailed 10-2 in the first five minutes of the game.

The Jacks would go on to lead by their biggest margin in the first half at 13. Part of that lead had to do with Bison leading-scorer Kreuser struggling in the first 20 minutes of play as he only had two points off of 0-for-5 shooting. NDSU only led by five, but it was in the final two minutes of the game.

Wilson struggled in the game for the Jackrabbits as he only finished with four points, shooting 20% from the field. NDSU outscored SDSU 34-22 inside the paint.

“They started switching screens and we just never really got the ball inside the paint after that,” Henderson said. “When we got it in to Doug, he didn’t have his best night finishing around the hoop either, so for those guys to step up, kudos to them.”

Scheierman led the Jackrabbits in scoring with 16 and pitched in six assists and six rebounds.

Alex Arians also had a good all-around game chipping in 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Easley had nine points in his second straight game in the starting lineup replacing Freidel.

For the Bison, Sam Griesel had 17 points and Tyree Eady had 13 points while shooting 75% from the floor. After Kreuser’s rough first half, he finished with 13 points off of 5-of-13 shooting.

“Anytime you go on the road and get a win like that, it’s a confidence booster,” Henderson said. “I know Doug didn’t have a great game, but how he got that stop on the final play of the game was great for us.”

First place in the Summit League was on the line for the Jacks heading into Saturday night. SDSU outscored NDSU 37-17 in the final 13 minutes of the game but fell just short, losing 84-82.

The Jackrabbits were down by as many as 22 midway through the second half before they started initiating a full-court press and a 2-3 zone on defense, which sparked the comeback attempt for the visiting team. Multiple turnovers from the Bison off of inbounds plays ensued.

Wilson, Matt Dentlinger and Matt Mims executed the press well on every possession as Wilson finished with four steals and Mims with three.

“I thought Mims and Dentlinger had fantastic weekends,” Henderson said. “They brought great energy, but we need consistency from our guys every night. That’s what we need to find, and we have two weeks to do that.”

Wilson was coming off a career-low in points in the previous game, but Saturday was a different story. He finished with 29 points to lead his team, shooting 11-of-16 from the floor.

“After [Friday] night, he was pretty disappointed with how he played,” Henderson said of Wilson’s performance. “He’s not playing his best either and as one of our captains, I’m challenging him to hold everybody accountable.”

After a missed free throw by Kreuser for the Bison with eight seconds left in the game, the Jacks were down four and needed a quick play but couldn’t get a good shot off and settled for a layup. That left a tenth of a second left on the clock, as there was no time to foul, resulting in the two-point loss.

“You don’t say hello when it’s time to say goodbye,” Henderson said. “We had to do something, and the press gave us a fight, and it wasn’t perfect, but you better have energy and physicality to win championships.”

All the shots were falling in the first half for NDSU as they shot 69% on field goals, which made it easy to jump out their big lead.

“We came out flat and didn’t have a lot of energy,” Henderson said. “They were getting us on the glass and we just didn’t have that fight early. But I was happy with how our guys responded in the second half.”

Scheierman logged 14 points and Dentlinger pitched in 15 for the Jackrabbits. Kreuser led the Bison with 17 points, and Griesel put up 15.

With the loss, SDSU fell to third in league play at 7-3 while NDSU moved up to second at 10-4, only behind USD.

Looking ahead to this weekend, the Jacks return home after their stretch of road games to host Kansas City, who are currently riding a six-game win streak.

“They’re a physical basketball team,” Henderson said of UMKC. “They’re gonna foul you like crazy, but I’m excited to be back home next week in front of our great fans at Frost Arena.”