Jacks down GCU in regular season opener

Landon Dierks

In its first showing of the 2018-19 regular season, the South Dakota State men’s basketball team extended the nation’s longest home winning streak to 21 games after defeating Grand Canyon University 79-74.

The Jacks looked poised to put the Antelopes away when they took a 69-56 lead with 5:15 remaining, but GCU closed the gap to as little as three points with six seconds left.

“That’s a great team,” SDSU head coach T.J. Otzelberger said after the win. “… I felt that was big-time, high-level college game in a great atmosphere.”

SDSU relied on senior forward Mike Daum and sophomore guard David Jenkins, Jr. to do the bulk of the scoring against GCU.

Jenkins led the way for SDSU with 31 points — including the last 10 for the Jacks to put the game out of reach.

“[My teammates] believe in me and tell me each and every day to be aggressive,” Jenkins said. “We try to (be aggressive) because at the end of the day you end up with results like that.”

Daum tallied 20 points and grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds for a double-double in the first outing of the season.

The Jackrabbits had 16 turnovers to GCU’s six and shot only 16-for-26 from the free throw line, but won the battle inside against a Lopes team that had a significant size advantage.

SDSU out-rebounded the Lopes 48-35 and outscored them in the paint 38-24.

“We got absolutely kicked on the boards, so that’s a big concern that we’ve had.” GCU head coach Dan Majerle said. “Our bigs have to get tougher. We’re big, but we’re not very athletic.”

The Lopes length caused the Jacks a few problems on the offensive end of the floor.

“We knew that when we attacked the hole their bigs would collapse up.” Jenkins said. “That’s how you get dish downs to Mike (Daum) and Matt (Dentlinger).”

Dentlinger made his collegiate debut against GCU. The redshirt freshman contributed 11 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes of action.

The Lopes were able to keep the game close through the performances of guards Trey Drechsel and Carlos Johnson, who both added 17 points in the loss.

SDSU held GCU center and Western Athletic Conference preseason Player of the Year Alessandro Lever to nine points and three rebounds.

“We want to continue to raise the bar in this program and to do that you have to play quality programs like Grand Canyon,” Otzelberger said. “… I’m proud of our guys because they rose to the challenge (tonight).”

The Jackrabbits have a short turnaround as they host Alabama State at 7 p.m. Thursday night.