SDSU rolls by UND, proves it's still the team to beat in the Summit
During a 74-62 win over UND on Friday night at the Sanford Pentagon, the Jacks continued to show they're the class of the league even without Wilson.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota State was picked to win the Summit League.
Then in the Crossover Classic, the Jackrabbits beat Utah State and gave No. 15 West Virginia a run for its money. SDSU followed with road wins at Iowa State and Bradley.
So the Jacks had well-established themselves as the Summit favorites early in the 2020-21 season.
But the Dakota Showcase threw a wrench in the league race, as the Jacks have played the event without Summit League reigning Player of the Year Douglas Wilson, who's day-to-day with an injury.
During a 74-62 win over the University of North Dakota on Friday night at the Sanford Pentagon, the Jacks made a convincing case they're the class of the league even without Wilson.
Matt Dentlinger led four Jacks in double figures with 21 points and seven rebounds. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward was the beneficiary of UND's defensive strategy to push out hard on the Jacks' potent 3-point shooters.
The defensive strategy worked for a half. UND trailed 32-31 at intermission as the Jacks started 1-for-10 from the 3-point line.
But SDSU went 6-for-14 from 3-point range in the second half to pull away.
"I think they definitely kind of found a rhythm offensively," UND coach Paul Sather said. "They got us scrambling a lot more and the ball stayed ahead of our rotations and they knocked down some 3's."
UND, meanwhile, struggled offensively outside of forward Filip Rebraca, who ended with 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting. He added seven rebounds.
"Throughout the game, we really struggled to find any kind of rhythm offensively and it just felt like every possession was kind of a grind, and I think you've got to give them credit defensively for that," Sather said. "We weren't attacking and when we were good things were happening."
UND starting guards Tyree Ihenacho and Caleb Nero added eight points and 13 points, respectively. But Nero, a Weber State transfer, was 1-for-6 from the 3-point line and Ihenacho was 3-for-12 from the field. The rookie point guard did add eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Fighting Hawks were 7-for-28 from 3-point range, which Sather felt was too many 3's for his team to take.
That was by design for the Jacks, who doubled Rebraca and made it difficult for the Hawks to get the ball in the post.
"Our main focus was Filip," SDSU coach Eric Henderson said. "Filip is a tremendous player and plays with great energy. We didn't want him to be real comfortable. When you do that, you give a little bit of room on the perimeter to take perimeter jump shots, so we knew that was probably going to happen."
The Jacks, on the other hand, started to heat up from the outside in the second half.
SDSU pushed out to a 13-point lead in the first six minutes of the second half. UND closed within six at the halfway mark of the second half (51-45) when Ihenacho had a steal and layup.
But the play of Alex Arians and Noah Freidel from there pushed the lead back out to comfortable levels.
Freidel finished with 15 points, while Arians had 11 on 3-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc. Baylor Scheierman also added 11 points.
UND, which beat South Dakota in the Dakota Showcase opener Thursday night, closes out the event Saturday at 5:30 p.m. against North Dakota State.
"Everyone's going through three games in three days," Sather said. "It'll be interesting to see what that third game looks like, but you know, it's a little bit like a tournament setup style. It's a good opportunity for us to play and get better because that's what we need. So let's go play, and let's not worry about being three days in a row."