Jacks set to finish regular season against Kansas City, Oral Roberts


Joclyn Haven

South Dakota State’s William Kyle III attempts a layup in a Summit League basketball game Feb. 11 against South Dakota at Frost Arena.

Marshall Minihan, Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State men’s basketball team returns to Frost Arena this weekend for their final two games of the regular season, against sixth-place Kansas City on Feb. 23  and league-leading Oral Roberts Feb. 25.

The Jackrabbits (17-11, 12- 4 Summit League) clinched the number two seed in the conference tournament and are currently three wins above third-place St. Thomas.

SDSU enters this weekend’s matchups on a six-game win streak. They hope to keep that streak alive and carry momentum into the postseason. Kansas City (11-18, 7-9) is currently in sixth place and has lost three in a row, while Oral Roberts (25-4, 16-0) hasn’t lost a game in over a month.

The Jacks have averaged 71.1 points per game this season while shooting 45.3% on field goals.

Oral Roberts (84.7) and St. Thomas (75.1) sit first and second respectively in the points per game category in the conference while the Jacks are near the bottom at seventh.

But the Jackrabbits allow the third least points per game in the conference with 70.4 while containing opponents’ three-point shooting to a mere 33%.

Sophomore guard Zeke Mayo has taken charge for the Jacks this season averaging 18.5 points, six rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, leading the team in each category.

The last time SDSU played the Roos, the Jacks slipped away with a 67-66 win in Kansas City Jan. 30. The last time SDSU played Oral Roberts was Dec. 19, their first conference game of the year. The Golden Eagles got the best of the Jacks in that game, winning by 39 points.

“I think our team is in a totally different spot than we were when we played Oral Roberts the first time,” Jacks coach Eric Henderson said. “We are excited for both of these games this weekend.”

Kansas City has struggled in its last three games going 0-3 against St. Thomas, UND, and NDSU respectively. While only allowing 68 points per game, the Roos have only been able to put up 65.6 points of their own.

Though leading the conference in rebounds and being second in steals, Kansas City sits at the bottom of the Summit League in field goal percentage, making only 39.7% of their shots, with eight players shooting below the team average.

RayQuawndis Mitchell leads the team, averaging 17.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists with Shemarri Allen is close behind him in scoring at 17 points, adding five bounds and 2.7 assists.

Oral Roberts is second in the Summit League in offensive shooting percentage with 48.4% and second in defensive shooting percentage as well, allowing opponents to shoot 41.6%.

The Golden Eagles have been undefeated during conference play largely due to their offense, with six-foot guard Max Abmas averaging 22.8 points per game while shooting 45.2%.

The Jackrabbits beat Both Denver and Omaha in their last two outings, pushing their current win streak to six in a row.

In Denver, with just ten seconds left in regulation, Mayo played clutch defense down the stretch, which helped seal the game for the Jacks 80-75.

Mayo finished that game with 27 points, two rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes while William Kyle III, Mathew Mors, and Matt Dentlinger all scored in double figures, with Dentlinger leading the team in rebounds with five.

The Jacks went 27-54 on field goals for the night and 21-24 on free throws with 16 coming in the second half. South Dakota State shoots 79.9% from the free throw line, which leads the conference.

Telvin Smith and Justin Mullins finished the game for the Pioneers with 17 points each while Touku Tainamo finished with eight rebounds.

The Denver bench struggled throughout the game, only scoring six points, a small number compared to SDSU’s 15.

For South Dakota State’s last road game of the regular season, it was not close in Omaha. In a game with zero lead changes, the Jacks came away with the 91-70 win.

Dentlinger played well the entire night, finishing with 26 points seven rebounds and two assists with Mayo ending it with 18 points, nine boards, and four assists. The Jacks finished shooting 54% on field goals along with 50% from behind the arc and 82.4% on field goal attempts.

“That guy (Dentlinger) put in so much work and to see him play with the confidence he has and to be able to produce the way he has, has been really beneficial to our team,” Henderson said.

SDSU dominated the paint throughout the game, finishing with an impressive 50 points.

Frankie Fidler was the scoring leader for the last-place Mavericks, finishing with 20 points. JJ White finished second with 11, while also leading the team in assists with six.

Omaha’s 40.6 field goal percentage wasn’t enough to contain the Jackrabbits and end their winning streak, nor was their defense, forcing the Jacks to just six turnovers, the lowest amount for SDSU all season.

The Jackrabbits begin Summit League play Friday, March 3 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

“Whether we win or lose Thursday, whether we win or lose on Saturday, I have great confidence in our group that we believe we can win the Summit League Tournament in two weeks,” Henderson said.