Jackrabbits off to 2-1 start

Evan Patzwald, Assistant Sports Editor (He/Him)

The South Dakota State men’s basketball team kicked off its season last week, picking up two wins in three games. 

The Jacks’ first game was a dominant performance at home over Bradley, winning the game 81-65. The home team shot the lights out in the first half, hitting 9-of-16 shots from three-point range. They led by as many as 24 in the game.

Douglas Wilson and Baylor Scheierman each notched double-doubles in the game, as Wilson had a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds while Scheierman added 10 points and 14 boards. 

Noah Freidel made his return to the court after sitting out the second half of last season because of mental health reasons. He had 16 points in his debut, shooting 3-of-8 on three-pointers.

“Noah’s a terrific kid and I am really happy to see how he’s been able to find his way back into the rotation onto the court pretty seamlessly,” third-year head coach Eric Henderson said.

The Jacks returned to action Friday night as they hit the road to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to play No. 13 Crimson Tide. SDSU kept it close as it only had a three-point deficit at halftime, trailing 38-41. 

Alabama rolled out to a 10-0 run after halftime to take a double-digit lead and never looked back, winning the game, 104-88. 

“Against Alabama, I thought we competed,” Henderson said. “Defensively we were not very sharp. They’re super talented, but we could’ve done a few things a little bit better to put ourselves in a better spot.”

Freidel led the Jacks in scoring with 23 points on the night, with many other contributors in double-figures. Wilson, Alex Arians and freshman Zeke Mayo each chipped in 12 points. Scheierman had another double-double, posting 10 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.

The Jacks closed out their first road trip of the year on Sunday in Nacogdoches, Texas, as they played Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks have been a notable mid-major team in recent years, with two upset wins in the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and 2016.

“It was a tough environment,” Henderson said. “Their kids play extremely hard, it’s very physical and not an easy place to have success.”

SDSU trailed 65-63 with eight minutes remaining in the game before going on a 20-6 run to close the game and win 83-71.

Freidel had a game-high 25 points, and Scheierman had his third double-double in three games with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Scheierman was later named Summit League Player of the Week on Monday.

“The way he’s impacting the game in other ways is absolutely tremendous,” Henderson said. “To go against an Alabama team and get 18 defensive rebounds is pretty impressive.”

SDSU looks to continue its tough nonconference schedule as the Jacks return to Frost Arena tonight to play Montana State at 7 p.m. They are back in action the next night on Thursday at 8:15, playing Presentation College.

Montana State was picked to finish third in the Big Sky preseason poll. They have risen in the polls every year since coach Danny Sprinkle’s first season in 2019-20.

“They’re very experienced and start four seniors,” Henderson said of Montana State. “You’re going to see two teams that understand what their identity is and understand it’s going to be a really tough task.”