Jackrabbits get third win in a row, are ready for rivalry games

By TRENTON ABREGO Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State men’s basketball team played two games in Frost Arena last week and came away with two victories to improve to 5-6 in the Summit League and 12-14 overall.

The first game was played Wednesday, Feb. 1, when SDSU defeated Western Illinois 98-65.  Michael Orris led the Jacks with 18 points and eight assists. Mike Daum also had 16 points and five rebounds.

Saturday, Feb. 4, the Jackrabbits overcame a slow start, in which they only scored 22 points in the first half and came from behind to beat the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in front of 3,917 fans at the 2017 Lamb Bonanza. Daum once again led the way with 38 points and 17 rebounds.

“Even though we struggled at times to score, we could count on our defense all night long,” Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger said about his team’s performance.  

Daum was awarded the Summit League Player of the Week for his performances and averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds in two games.

“They elected not to double team and trap him for the most part on his catches, certain nights that’s the way people will play him, and when they do that’s when he (Daum) needs to assert his dominance,” Otzelberger said.

This was SDSU’s third win in a row and they are now in sixth place in the Summit League standings. The Jackrabbits have climbed three spots in the standings over the past two weeks.

Now the Jackrabbits will shift their focus to two rivalry games this week. The Jacks will be on the road to play against North Dakota State Wednesday, Feb. 8 and against the South Dakota Coyotes Saturday, Feb. 11.

“As much as we respect all the teams and coaches in the league, we haven’t worried about our opponents as much as we just worry about us getting better,” Otzelberger said.

However, the Jackrabbits have played NDSU at Frost Arena already this year and fell 80-69. The Jacks held a 15-point lead at halftime, and saw their lead grow as big as 16.

In the second half, the Bison outscored the Jackrabbits 58-32.

“We were up 38 to 22 at the half and we had, what I thought, was our worst half of the year in the second half,” Otzelberger said.

The Bison lead the Summit League standings, but have lost two straight games to the IUPUI Jaguars and the South Dakota Coyotes. For NDSU, they have the best defense statistically and only allow 69.5 points per game.

The Bison are led by Paul Miller, who averages 16 points per game, which is good for ninth in the Summit League. In the last contest against the Jackrabbits, Miller had 21 points and 10 assists.

Dexter Werner, who is fifth in the Summit League for rebounds with an average of seven per game, is a key player for the Bison.

On Saturday, the Jackrabbits will head to Vermillion to take on their in-state foe, the South Dakota Coyotes.

In the previous matchup against the Coyotes, the Jackrabbits won a close battle, 73-72, as Mike Daum scored a lay-up with 2.8 seconds remaining.

In the last contest against the Jackrabbits, the Coyotes were without Tyler Flack, who is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds. Flack has been playing well lately; in his last contest against the Bison he had 17 points.

The Coyotes are led by Matt Mooney, who averages 17.5 points and 4.3 rebounds. In the last time out against SDSU, Mooney had 22 points and five steals.

But, Otzelberger isn’t intimidated.

“We have grown and developed as a team. I think we are a lot better team this last month than we were the first weeks of conference play, and hopefully the progress we have made pays off,” Otzelberger said.

On the road, the Jackrabbits have struggled as they are just 2-10 on the season.

However, Otzelberger hopes the Jackrabbits can overcome those struggles and believes it starts on the defensive end.

“It’s so much harder to win on the road, you just got to be so perfect in so many areas, you got to be attentive to detail, you got to make shots, got to win rebounding and free throw margin, and that’s where we are going to keep our focus,” Otzelberger said.

Five league games remain for the Jackrabbits and they hope to make the most of them.

“We know once you get into the conference tournament, anything is possible, and we know we have a huge advantage with our fanbase and the support we are able to get at the Denny [Sanford PREMIER Center] from our fans,” Otzelberger said. “We got five league games to go and we are looking at it one game at a time; it’s a one game season.”