Jackrabbit men’s season ends in semifinals to rival NDSU


Evan Patzwald

The SDSU men’s basketball team during its 89-79 loss to NDSU Monday night at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls. The Jacks are eliminated from the Summit League Tournament with the loss, ending their season.

Evan Patzwald, Co-Sports Editor

Monday night ended in heartbreak for the Jacks as the men’s basketball team’s comeback attempt vs. their rival NDSU fell short in the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament. The Bison controlled the game essentially from start to finish, leaving the game with an 89-79 win over SDSU, ending their season.

NDSU advances to play Oral Roberts in the championship game Tuesday night.

The Jacks will not be back in the NCAA Tournament this year and says goodbye to its three seniors, Alex Arians, Matt Dentlinger and Aaron Fiegen. What Arians will remember most about his time in Brookings will be how close the team was throughout his tenure.

“Coming to this school, I knew that everyone on the team was close and that’s how it’s been ever since I’ve been here,” Arians said. “I’ll definitely miss being around them, but I’ll definitely be following these guys for as long as I’ll follow the Jacks.”

No. 3 NDSU led by as many as 21 points Monday night and used a 17-0 run in the first half to get out to an early 21-6 lead 10 minutes into the game. The Jacks stormed back with a 10-0 run over their own to cut the Bison lead to one at 25-24.

The Jacks took their only lead of the night with four minutes left in the first half on a pull-up jumper from Arians to make the score 29-27. NDSU took a six-point lead into the break and extended that lead over the course of the second half, leading 74-53 with seven minutes left in the game. SDSU finally started getting some stops on defense and pulled within six points with under a minute left but ran out of time, ending the Jacks’ season.

SDSU was outrebounded in the game 37-24, with 22 of the Bison’s total coming from Grant Nelson. His rebound total was a Summit League Tournament record for a game.

“They got us in the paint early,” coach Eric Henderson said after the loss. “17 of their first 20 points were in the paint. The rebounding has been a concern of mine for the whole year. We need to make sure that we get better at it. We got outrebounded again tonight and that was a big part of it early.”

Just when the Jacks looked like a run was about to start, the Bison always had an answer on the other end and that proved to be the difference. Nelson finished the game with 20 points, along with his 20-rebound night.

After shooting 1-10 in the first half on 3-pointers, the Bison shot 7-10 in the second half. The threes didn’t start falling for the Jackrabbits until they had already dug themselves a big hole.

“They gave us a lot of challenges when we were playing defense,” Henderson said. “When you have a 10, 12-point lead, you’re able to play a little freer and we needed to get a little closer where the basket got a little smaller for some of those guys. But give them credit, they made shots and they scored.”

In Arians’ final game wearing the yellow and blue, he had a team-high 20 points and added six rebounds. Dentlinger had 11 points and two rebounds.

Zeke Mayo struggled again shooting the ball on the night, shooting 5-for-17 from the floor and finishing the game with 18 points. Matt Mims had a career-night scoring, finishing with 19 points, shooting 4-for-7 on 3-point shots.“Zeke’s a tremendous player and obviously he’s disappointed with how he played but we had our backs against the wall a few times this year,” Henderson said. “I told our guys in the locker room that what I’ll remember most about this team is how they dealt with adversity. We dealt with a lot this year and to finish second in our league in the regular season, and how we dealt with tough times was pretty special.”

Arians credits part of their fight to the fans and atmosphere that always show up to Sioux Falls for the tournament.

“The fans are electric and amazing,” he said. “They’ve had our back every step of the way and I’m proud to say that I’ll be a Jackrabbit fan for life.”

After the game, Henderson didn’t say whether they would be participating in any other postseason tournaments but said would look into it if he felt it was right for the program. He said he is looking forward to getting back at it with the guys in the summer and working with them again.

“How we’ve done it within our program, we don’t really have captains,” Henderson said when talking about the future of the team. “We expect all of our guys to represent our school with great character. We have five traits that we talk about all the time that keeps us together. It’s just kind of a next man-up mentality.”