Turning the corner: Jackrabbits 6-2 in Summit League record after rough start


Joclyn Haven

South Dakota State’s Zeke Mayo attempts a layup in a Summit League basketball game against Omaha Jan. 19 at Frost Arena. Mayo scored 31 points against the Mavericks on his way to being named the Summit League Peak Performer of the Week.

Evan Patzwald, Sports editor

After a rough start to the season that included four consecutive losses, the Jackrabbit men’s basketball team have turned their season around in Summit League play. 

Zeke Mayo was named the Summit League Peak Performer of the Week last week after two strong performances in their home wins over Omaha and Denver.

Mayo had 31 points Thursday against Omaha, two points shy of his season-high 33, which he got Dec. 29 against Western Illinois. He shot 9-of-14 from the field Thursday including 6-of-8 on 3-pointers. He also had five assists and five rebounds in SDSU’s 84-61 win.

“Zeke was terrific again tonight,” coach Eric Henderson said after the game. “We’ve continued to help him grow, but I’m really proud of how he’s really grown with the mental part of the game. We’ve got a long way to go, but our connectivity is getting there.” 

The Jacks went into halftime with a 41-26 lead. SDSU stretched its lead out to 22 points with 13:51 to play in the game at 57-35. 

The Mavericks would go on a 13-0 run over the next five minutes after multiple turnovers from the Jacks to cut the margin to nine points with eight minutes left in the game.

SDSU then made its next eight 3-point attempts to close out the game, coming from Mayo, Alex Arians and Matt Mims. Arians finished with 16 points, while William Kyle III had 12 points and eight boards to pace the Jacks. 

“You can finally see we’re all on the same page,” Arians said. “Whether it’s help side defense or just individual matchups, I think you can finally see it all coming together.”

Saturday’s game against Denver was a tighter contest with 14 lead changes and seven ties throughout the game. Mayo shined again, with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists, shooting 50% from the field and 3-point range. 

Mayo suffered an injury in the last few minutes, but the team was able to close out the game, going on a 13-4 run over that stretch to give the team its fourth-straight victory and sixth conference win of the season. 

“When we saw [Zeke] go down, we just really came together and were going to win the game for him, and I think that mindset really helped carry us to a win,” Mims said. 

Mims had a season-high 14 points in the game and had big plays on the defensive end. Kyle had a career-high 19 points, surpassing his 17 points on Nov. 25. 

Mayo didn’t practice Tuesday, but Henderson said it is more precautionary and is “hopeful” that he can get back on the court this week after his injury in Saturday’s game. 

SDSU currently sits in second place in the Summit League at 6-2 and 11-9 overall behind Oral Roberts at 8-0 and 17-4 overall. The Jacks will see ORU one more time this season during Senior Day Feb. 25 at Frost Arena. The Golden Eagles won their first matchup Dec. 19 79-40. 

Up next for the Jacks is three games in five days on the road. 

They travel to St. Paul, Minnesota, to play St. Thomas Thursday at 7 p.m., Western Illinois Saturday at 2 p.m. and Kansas City Monday at 7 p.m. Their game with Kansas City was postponed from Dec. 21 due to poor weather conditions. 

“Our guys are used to tough situations, and that’s why we do put ourselves in those in the nonconference schedule to prepare us for situations like this,” Henderson said of the team’s number of games in a short amount of time. “That’s how teams get tougher and come together.”