Jackrabbits Use Defense, Rebounding, and Free Throw Shooting to Beat Denver
South Dakota State moved one step closer to securing the number two seed in next week's Summit League Tournament by grinding out a 78-69 win over Denver Thursday night in front of 2,743 fans in Brookings.
The victory was the seventh in the last eight games for the Jackrabbits, who are now tied with Fort Wayne at 9-4 in conference play.
Both teams struggled shooting in the first half, each hitting just 37 percent of their shots. The Jackrabbits showing off their balance with all five starters scoring at least five points, four with six including Jake Bittle with six points and seven rebounds, as SDSU controlled the glass, 24-15 in the first 20 minutes.
The biggest number of concern for the Pioneers in the first half: three fouls each for Chris Udofia and Bryant Rucker, on a team that doesn't have a lot of depth.
90 seconds into the second half, Udofia went to the bench with his fourth foul, and the Jacks went on a run, scoring eight straight in the next two minutes to run the lead to as many as 10.
Denver would rally to tie the game at 41 with 13:22 left, but it was all SDSU from there as seniors Brayden Carlson, Jordan Dykstra, and Chad White took over in their final weekend at Frost Arena, junior Cody Larson added a couple of key defensive plays and dunks to give the Jacks a nine point win.
While the teams were about dead even shooting the ball (SDSU 48%, Denver 47%), the Jacks won the game on the boards and at the free throw line.
SDSU outrebounded the Pioneers by 13 (38-25) and outscored them at the charity stripe by 19.
The Jackrabbit defense shut down Denver's top two scorers, Udofia and Brett Olson, who combined for 17 points, 11 below their season average, both players fouled out of the game.
Carlson had 22 points for the Jacks, Dykstra 19, Larson 16, as the SDSU starters accounted for all but two of their teams points in the game.
In the game, Dykstra became just the third player in school history to surpass 1,500 points and 800 rebounds in a career.
South Dakota State (17-11/9-4) hosts South Dakota Saturday at 4:00pm.