SDSU earns first victory of season over Mustangs

 

 Double doubles by Jordan Dykstra and Cody Larson finally secured the SDSU men’s basketball team’s long overdue first win of the season Monday Nov. 18 night against the Southwest Minnesota State University Mustangs.

Even without departed superstar Nate Wolters, this year’s Jacks team still figured to be one of the best in school history. Nevertheless, the Jackrabbits had dropped their first three contests of the year leading up to Monday’s victory against the Mustangs. 

After watching their 30-game home winning streak end Thursday night, Dykstra and the Jacks got off to a fast start on Monday, appearing determined to win their first game of the season and begin a new home winning streak. Ten minutes into the first half, the Jacks led 21-6 and looked to be on route to a rout, but soon later they appeared to lose their focus and allowed the Mustangs to climb back into the game, down 37-29 at halftime.

One reason the Mustangs were able to stay in the game was a result of the Jacks’ free throw woes. SDSU made only seven of thirteen from the free throw line, shooting 53.8 percent. The Jacks struggled shooting the 3-point ball, making only two of eleven. The team also had a meager five assists in the half. 

“I think we’re still carrying around some frustration from shooting and free throws and feeling we should be playing better,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “We’ve been such a perimeter oriented team for so long and now all of the sudden we’re the opposite and it’s just taking us a while to figure that out.”

The opening minutes of the second half saw the Mustangs trim the Jacks lead to 39-35 before Brayden Carlson countered with a three-pointer which began a 12-1 run by the Jacks. As the second half progressed, the Jacks improved on most of their first half struggles. They made 11 assists in the half and while shooting five of eleven from three-point territory. 

Five Jackrabbits finished the game in double digits. Dykstra had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Larson had 13 points and 11 rebounds. 

“Cody is a great player,” Dykstra said. “He’s bar none the best defensive player in practice I’ve ever played against. That goes for any game I’ve played.”

Carlson scored 15 points. Chad White finished with 13 points, and freshman Anders Broman scored a career high 10 points for the Jacks as he continues to contribute more and more to the team. Another rising star for the Jacks is redshirt freshman Connor Devine who had five rebounds and whom Nagy had high praise for. 

“Connor is going to be a great player,” Nagy said. “We’re just trying to get him minutes, get him comfortable, ‘cause he’s been phenomenal in practice. … Unfortunately for him, we’re so experienced inside that he probably didn’t get to see the time that he should so that he can get comfortable, but he’s going to be a tremendous player. We’re really excited.”

Thursday’s game saw the Jacks suffer a 77-69 defeat to the University of Montana Grizzlies. Montana also reached the NCAA Tournament last March and this year returned honorable mention All-American and last year’s Big Sky MVP Kareem Jamar. In a game that featured poor first half shooting on both sides, the Jacks took 14-9 lead through the first nine minutes of play, but allowed the Grizzlies back into it going into halftime when the Jacks held a 25-24 lead. 

After shooting a dismal 10 percent on first half three-pointers, the Grizzlies lit up Frost Arena in the second half, making 10 of 13 threes. Each time the Jacks tried to make a run, they found themselves silenced by a Montana three. For the game, the Jacks were held to 43.1 percent shooting and 30 percent on three-pointers. Dykstra had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Larson finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.

A program very similar to SDSU, Montana had nothing but compliments and respect for a program that mirrors itself. Both teams lost star point guards last year – Will Cherry for Montana – and both teams appear to be headed in the right direction in their respective leagues.

“We talked about the respect we have for coach [Nagy],” Montana head coach Wayne Tinkle said. “And what he’s done here and what great program that kind of mirrored us in the past few years and what a great road win it would be against a classy, good program,” 

The Jackrabbits will travel to play Texas Tech on Thursday, Nov. 21. Although they haven’t been the cream of the Big 12 crop, the Red Raiders are now coached by Tubby Smith and should be a tough challenge for the Jacks.