Men win fourth straight

Hayley Pratt Assistant Sports Editor

The Jackrabbits extended their win streak to four on Saturday against conference opponent IUPUI for the 42nd Annual Pork Classic in front of 3,393 fans in Frost Arena. 

While the Jaguars fell to 5-21 overall and 0-9 in the Summit league, the Jackrabbits now sit 14-10 overall and 5-3 in the league. 

The great margin in overall records going into Saturday’s match did not affect the energy brought by the home team throughout the game. 

“I thought the kids did a really good job of focusing and doing what we asked them to do,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “We did a good job of not overlooking these guys and taking care of business.”

The Jaguars entered the game short-handed with junior guard Ian Chiles recovering from a broken hand and teammate Ja’Rob McCallum adhering to religious matters. 

“We knew what we were getting into,” IUPUI head coach Todd Howard said. “We knew we were playing, I think, the hottest team in the league.”

The first half of Saturday’s game featured one tie and two lead changes. These would be sole occurrences in the contest. 

With March steadily approaching, Nagy’s goal is to keep his players grounded and level-headed, regardless of standings. The Jackrabbits are continuously pushing themselves in practice with the hopes of making the NCAA Tournament once again in 2014, for what would be their third-consecutive season. 

“Zach [Horstman] works his butt off in practice all year long and he’s finally starting to see the dividends in that,” Jordan Dykstra said. “Marcus [Heemstra] works has worked his butt off thought his whole career. It’s been said over and over, these two guys, they add a lot to our team”. 

A prevalent issue for Horstman in recent years has been injury, but his injuries are behind him and he is currently back to pre-injury level of play. 

Horstman has been active on the glass and it’s “a matter of time before he starts shooting the ball,” Nagy said. “He kills our guys in practice. … He’s giving us really good minutes and this will be very important for us down the road. He has build some confidence for himself and our coaching staff has a lot of confidence in him.” 

In his 21 minutes of play, Horstman contributed three rebounds and nine points including one three-point field goal. 

With defensive percentages lower on the road with Denver and USD, coach Nagy knew exactly what needed to be done in order turn things around. Saturday’s contest showed greater and more consistent defensive numbers. 

“What we’re doing differently, we’re making it harder for them to score the basket,” Nagy said. “We’re not just giving layups. We’re taking some fouls, we make them go to the free throw line.”

 In the home contest against North Dakota State this past month, the Jackrabbit strength lay in the offensive end. The team had opportunities to make plays defensively but, due to the fear of fowling, did not.  

“What I had to reintroduce them to was the thought process of, your main importance to us is defensively, not offensively and that kind of flipped a switch for them in that they need to quit worrying so much about offense and worry about the defensive end because we were scoring at a much higher rate and we were still getting beat,” Nagy said.

The players themselves have been experiencing a greater comfort playing alongside one another. 

“I feel like we’re finally starting to gel,” Dykstra said. “[We are] finally starting to come together defensively and that makes a huge difference … It definitely helps out when you have two guys coming off the bench playing some big minutes for us.”

For the Jacks, Dykstra finished the game leading the team in scoring with 17 points. IUPUI’s Khufu Najee led the court in scoring with 19 points. 

IUPUI’s Mitch Patton contributed 12 points in the losing effort. Patton also contributed three defensive rebounds. 

Najee and SDSU’s Jake Bittle were tied for most rebounds with seven each. SDSU ultimately led in total rebounds with 40 to IUPUI’s 30. 

Another strong force for the Cougars, senior guard Marcellus Barksdale finished with eight points and four total rebounds. 

“He [Barksdale] is becoming one of the better point guards in the league”, Howard said. “He really understands how to play.” 

IUPUI led the game with overall steals with four and turnovers with seven. The Jacks led the game in points in the paint 32-18. 

The Jackrabbits will hit the road for the next three games with Omaha on Thursday, Feb. 13, followed by Western Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 15. Both contests are set to tip off at 7 pm.