Getting back on track: Jacks find team identity in Sioux Falls

Scott Engen Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State men’s basketball team continued to struggle this past weekend, playing three games and winning one in the Sanford Pentagon Showcase in Sioux Falls.

SDSU lost to UC Irvine and East Tennessee State by 63-52 and 71-59 respectively. The Jacks dominated in their final game of the weekend against Milwaukee, winning 81-58 to immprove their record to 2-6 and end a four game losing streak.

Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger said the difference in the third game was “valuing the basketball and getting good shots.”

“We knew going into it we were playing against good competition. We came out of it feeling like, as we went through the weekend that we improved,” Otzelberger said. “We went with a 1-3-1 zone defense and I think it was good for our team. We struggled making shots early in the weekend, but really found some identity and played great against Milwaukee.” 

SDSU recently switched their defensive scheme to zone defense instead of man-to-man. Otzelberger said they made this change because they now “have more length.” With this change the Jacks have forced more turnovers and improved their defensive field goal percentage.

Mike Daum excelled against Milwaukee, tallying a career-high 32 points. Daum also added six assists, a career-high and a steal. He was named to the All-Showcase team as he averaged 24 points a game in the three contests.

“We have high expectations for Mike,” Otzelberger said. “He really slowed his games down. We told him, when we throw it to you just be patient. Mike did a great job of having composure, reading the defense and making the extra pass when it was needed.” 

Other top performers for the Jacks were Reed Tellinghuisen and A.J. Hess. Tellinghuisen had 11 points, two assists and two steals. Hess had nine points, two assists and one steal.

On Nov. 30, the Jackrabbits will host Minnesota Crookston. This will be the first of back-to-back home games for SDSU. Coach Otzelberger likes how his team stacks up against Crookston.

“We’ve got to come out and set the tone right away. We’ve found our identity now and we have to continue to build on it.”  

Crookston, a Division II team, comes into the game with a 3-2 record and back-to-back wins against Waldorf and Jamestown. They are led by freshman guard, Harrison Cleary, who is averaging 21.6 points per game so far this season.

“He’s a really good player, he can score, we got to take him off the three-point shot. We have to make sure we don’t give him easy looks,” Otzelberger said. 

Daum leads the Jackrabbits in scoring, averaging 20.8 points per game on the season. 

The Jacks switched up their line up in the game against Milwaukee due to freshman Cole Gentry and sophomore forward Ian Thiesen facing injuries. Freshman point guard Sergio El Darwich started his first career game. He scored seven points and had three assists in the contest.

This will be the first of four out of the next five games the Jacks will play at Frost Arena. Tip off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m on Wednesday.