The Jackrabbits men’s basketball team (0-2) suffered a pair of losses during the San Diego Classic during which several weaknesses were exposed.
The first matchup paired the Jacks against the University of San Diego (2-0) to whom they lost 74-70 on Friday night. The Jackrabbits started very poorly, digging themselves in a 20-11 hole during the first eight minutes of the game. Throughout the first half they struggled to pull themselves back into the game, but still found themselves trailing 41-34 at the half.
After refocusing during halftime, the Jacks seized at 54-53 lead on a layup by Code Larson at the 12:19 mark. The teams then battled back and forth with the Jacks leading by as many as six points before the Toreros stormed back to take a 71-70 lead with a minute to play. Despite a stretch of poor free throw shooting where the Toreros only made three of seven, the Jacks could not capitalize and retake the lead in the final minute. Instead they missed shots and made three costly turnovers to hand the victory to the Toreros.
USD committed more turnovers, 19, than the Jacks, 16, but the three in the final minute proved fatal. One reason for the late collapse can be attributed to a lack of experience in the backcourt. Senior point guard Brayden Carlson fouled out with 12 points with 1:17 to play in the game, leaving the Jacks without one of their leading scorers and forced to bring the ball up the court with less experienced players such as sophomore Jake Bittle and true freshman Anders Broman.
“It was tough not having Brayden in, him getting his fifth foul,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “And trying to run the point with Jake who hasn’t run it in a long time and with Anders who is not used to running it at the end of the game, that’s probably what cost us.”
Foul trouble also plagued Jordan Dykstra who clocked only 11 minutes and finished the game with four fouls and five points. In Dykstra’s absence, Bittle logged significant minutes off the bench and led the team with 18 points, six rebounds, a block and a pair of steals. Cody Larson finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Marcus Heemstra also came up big, scoring 16 with six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“Obviously sixteen, I’ve never had that before,” Heemstra said. “But I’d trade it all in for the “W” and that’s what we wanted tonight. Unfortunately we didn’t get it, but we can’t dwell on this too long.”
On Saturday, SDSU again suffered defeat, losing 98-89 to Loyola Marymount University (2-0). Much like in Friday’s game, the Jacks struggled early before taking a 22-20 lead with 10:38 to play. The teams fought back and forth with the Jacks leading by as many as four until the Lions took a 45-44 lead into the break.
The Jackrabbits managed to tie the game 57-57 on a Carlson three-pointer with 15:37 to play but were never able to regain the lead. SDSU lost the pace soon thereafter and trailed by as many as 15 points on route to the loss.
Though eventually fouling out, Dykstra achieved his first of what could be many double-doubles this year, scoring 22 points along with 11 rebounds and a pair of assists. Carlson scored 19 with five rebounds, three steals, and two assists. Chad White finished with 18 points, four rebounds, three steals and three assists. The Jack’s sixth man also finished with double digits, scoring 10 while tallying up two rebounds, a steal, and an assist.
SDSU will return home Nov. 14 to host the University of Montana Grizzlies. At this point in the season, the Jacks are clearly depending on their inside game, and how the forwards perform Thursday night could be critical in determining whether the Jacks can preserve the nation’s longest home winning streak.
“I think that we’re going to continue to see pressure from people,” Nagy said. “So the way to relieve the pressure is to throw the ball to the post and I think we’re going to be much more of an inside team this year.”