Championship Rematch: SDSU Mounts Another Comeback, Tops Denver 54-53

SIOUX FALLS — Just like Saturday, the SDSU men’s basketball team trailed by 13 points in the second. Just like Saturday against Oral Roberts, the Jacks overcome it and came out on top to advance to the Summit League Tournament Championship with a 54-53 victory over Denver Monday night.

“What a game,” SDSU Head Coach Scott Nagy said. “I feel really bad for them because I know how that feels and I’ve been there before.”

Saturday was a wild night for Jacks fans. It was the first time all year SDSU had a game decided by three points or less. They also trailed for almost all the game.

Monday was a different story. The Jacks jumped out of the gate and led by as much as 11 in the first half before heading to the locker room with a 30-22 lead.

The second half was where the story began to unfold. The Pioneers (15-15) went on an 18-0 run in the first seven minutes of the second half, taking a 40-30 lead. Denver’s lead would stretch out to 13 points multiple times, the last being 49-36 with 5:08 left in the game.

That was until Deondre Parks (14 points) knocked in a three. Then another one, on which he we fouled. Parks hit the free throw to convert the four-point play to cut the deficit to six.

SDSU (25-7) would then cut the lead to 53-52 after a Mike Daum lay up with 1:07 left. That’s when all hell would break loose.

C.J. Bobbitt would miss a lay up while Daum grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Bobbitt with 23 seconds left. He would make one of two and tie the game at 53. On the next possession, Denver’s Joe Rosga drove into the lane and was stripped by George Marshall. Jake Bittle would pick up the ball for the Jacks and was fouled at mid court by Bobbitt.

At the line down one point with just two seconds remaining in regulation, Bittle missed the first free throw before calmly sinking the second, giving the Jacks the lead.

On the inbounds play, Rosga drove towards the sideline, knocking both he and Parks out of bounds. Despite the clock reading all zeroes, a foul had been called, sending Rosga, the nation’s ninth-best free throw shooter, to the charity stripe for a one-and-one. 

“You ask me before the game to send a guy to the line who’s a 90% free throw shooter, I’m gonna take him every time,” Denver head coach Joe Scott said.

After a lengthy review, Rosga stepped to the line, went through his shooting motion and came up short. Parks grabbed the loose ball and the game went final, much to the delight of the Jackrabbit faithful that packed the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.

“There’s not really much to say,” Scott said. “It’s obviously heartbreaking but that’s part of sports and we’re on the wrong side of it.”

Redshirt freshman Mike Daum scored in double figures for the 19th straight game, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds. Seven of those points came at the free throw line as Denver double and triple teamed Daum for much of the game, forcing him into five turnovers.

“They have a great defense,” Daum said. “I know I was flustered a little bit but credit to my guards for great ball movement to get better looks but also credit to them cause their defense was on point tonight.” 

Denver was led by Jake Pemberton, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with nine rebounds.

SDSU will take on NDSU in a rematch of last year’s tournament final, a game in which the Jacks fell to the Bison by one point. The Jackrabbits are hungry for redemption and have been thinking about that game for awhile now.

“We’re excited,” Bittle said. “I thought about that game all offseason and I think we’re ready for it.”

For the second game in a row, the Jacks got outplayed and won the game, the Jacks would like to avoid in the title game.

“I think we just have to go out there and play like we’re down. Not wait till we’re down 10 or 15 to get going,” Bittle said.

Tuesday’s championship game marks the third meeting between the Jacks and Bison in the tournament championship game, each team winning once.

Tip off for the championship is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls. The game will be televised on ESPN2.