Men’s basketball looks to bounce back

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Skyler Flatten goes to shoot during the Western Illinois game on Feb 1.

South Dakota State men’s basketball team will be in action this week with a home game against IUPUI and an away game at Fort Wayne. 

The Jackrabbits (12-16, 5-8) will be coming off a week where they lost two games to rivals North Dakota State 82-65 and South Dakota 91-89. 

During both games, the Jackrabbits were out-rebounded. Against NDSU, the Jackrabbits were at a minus seven rebounding margin. USD owned a plus ten rebounding margin over the Jacks. 

“They were the more aggressive and physical team in the games. We have been successful, we have been the team to score more in the paint, more points at the free throw line and we have won the rebound battle. I think those are tell-tale signs of who the more aggressive team is,” head coach T.J. Otzelberger said about the game against the North Dakota State Bison. 

Against the South Dakota Coyotes, Reed Tellinghuisen led the way for the Jackrabbits as he had 28 points, which was a career-high for him. 

On Feb. 15 the IUPUI Jaguars (11-15, 5-7) will travel to Frost Arena to take on the Jackrabbits. Earlier in the season, the Jaguars defeated the Jackrabbits 85-83 in Indianapolis. For the Jackrabbits, they owned the rebound margin by three but couldn’t capitalize on that margin as they had 16 turnovers. 

“Three things: we need to out-rebound them, value the ball and limit our turnovers and score in the paint and at the free throw line to put pressure on their defense,” Otzelberger said. 

IUPUI is led by Darell Combs, a senior guard who is averaging 16.5 points per game with a field goal percentage of 41.8. 

“Darell Combs is a really dynamic guard, has made big shots in this league and been one of the best guards in the league for years,” Otzelberger said. 

IUPUI is also led by forward Matt O’Leary, who is averaging 6.2 rebounds per game and has a three-point percentage of 46.2, which is fourth best in the Summit League. Another efficient shooter for the Jaguars is forward Evan Hall, who has a field goal percentage of 57.5. 

On Saturday, the Jackrabbits will be in action against the Fort Wayne Mastodons (17-9, 6-6), who have made some noise this year as they beat then-ranked No. 3 Indiana Hoosiers 71-68. 

In their previous game against the Mastodons, the Jackrabbits won 77-67, as they had an advantage of rebounding margin of 12 and Mike Daum led the way with 42 points in just 31 minutes played. 

Defensively, the Jackrabbits played what Otzelberger describes as “one of their best defensive performances of the year.” 

To beat the Mastodons again, the Jackrabbits might have to replicate the defensive showcase they had in the last game where they forced the hand of Fort Wayne, causing them to shoot 43 percent from the field and forced six turnovers on five steals. 

John Konchar is a redshirt sophomore from West Chicago and leads the Summit League in rebounds with 9.3 per game, field-goal percentage of 63.9 and three-point percentage of 52.6. 

“(He’s) an unbelievable rebounder — his effort, energy and motor — we need to put a body on him every time when he’s going for the offensive boards,” Otzelberger said. 

Mo Evans, a senior guard for the Fort Wayne Mastodons is averaging 17.7 points per game. Last time against the Jackrabbits, Evans had 10 points. 

In the five Summit League games that the Jackrabbits have won, they have an average of a plus ten rebounding margin. However, in losses, South Dakota State has an average of negative four rebounding margin. 

“For us it’s a pretty clear sign to come out with a victory we need to win the rebounding battle, it’s been proven throughout conference play and we are committed to hitting the glass on offense and finishing plays on defense,” Otzelberger said.

The Jackrabbits sit in eighth place now in the Summit League. To be invited to the conference tournament, the Jackrabbits need to stay where they are because only the top eight teams qualify. Oral Roberts is the ninth seed and will face the top three teams in the Summit League in their final three games: North Dakota State, South Dakota and Denver. 

“Our focus is on the process, rather than the result and if we can do that we will be successful,” Otzelberger said.