Upset chance comes short in tourney debut with Baylor


For the first time in the NCAA Tournament, the Jackrabbits were in it right to the end.

That’s all most mid-majors will ever ask for when in that situation.

However, the Jackrabbits played far from their best and that aspect will likely haunt them for at least the considerable future. The third-seeded Baylor Bears held on to defeat 14-seeded SDSU, 68-60, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. March 15.

For the majority of the night, SDSU (27-8) had trouble executing on offense, falling victim to their own misfortunes, rather than what Baylor did directly to them. SDSU started strong with an 8-0 lead on a jumper by Jordan Dykstra and a pair of three pointers by Brayden Carlson and Griffan Callahan. The crowd of Jackrabbits fans were breaking out in cheers of unbridled excitement

Like the talented veterans that they are, Baylor responded with a timeout to take the pro-SDSU crowd out of the game. And it worked.

The game changed from there as the Bears (28-7), mounted a 19-3 run in the first half and gained the lead that they would never relinquish, heading into halftime leading 36-28.

From there, SDSU was battling to break even once more and chasing something that they just couldn’t catch.

“They were more physical, and that just shouldn’t have happened,” SDSU head coach Scott Nagy said. “I thought once they settled down, they really whipped us physically.”

The physical whipping never really went away but the Jackrabbits climbed back into the game. Carlson hit a layup to pull the Jacks within three with over 12 minutes left before Baylor coach Scott Drew deployed another tactical timeout to take the steam out of the SDSU run. It worked, and Baylor’s lead swelled back to 11 and then to 10 with 3:59 to go.

Baylor took care of business where they had to dominate SDSU — on the glass. The Bears made it look easy against the smaller Jacks, finishing with a 35-23 advantage on the boards that felt like more when all was said and done.

“We came into this game expecting to win, and we had our chances. They just beat us up on the rebounds and we lost our opportunity,” said Chad White, who finished the game with 15 points. Nate Wolters led all scorers with 19 points and Baylor’s Pierre Jackson finished with 18 points.

Jackson, along with 17 points from Bears sharpshooter Brady Heslip, were both key contributing factors to SDSU’s downfall. Considering the Jacks held Baylor’s venerable posts, Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy, to six points combined, the damage from the Big 12 guards proved to be a difference.

It will sting for a while for the Jackrabbits, who saw their chances of dancing deep into March extinguished in one night. Flatly, SDSU played a top-10 team in the nation to the wire in the NCAA Tournament. That is something to build on, especially for a team that has never danced like this before.

“It’s just an amazing experience for me. Yeah, I’ll never forget it. I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Griffan Callahan, the Jackrabbits’ lone senior, who Nagy says will be very difficult to replace.

The Jackrabbits likely did leave everything out on the court, but it will be hard for SDSU to avoid regrets when the Jacks’ played far from their best.

“This is the best team we’ve ever played at South Dakota State. We know that, we knew it going in … We’re just really frustrated that we didn’t play our best,” Nagy said.