College Men's Basketball

Jackrabbits finish regular season with dominant win over NDSU

SDSU's defense leads way to 78-61 win over Bison on Saturday


FARGO — South Dakota State ended the regular season on a high note as they used one of their best halves of the season to fuel a 78-61 win over North Dakota State at the Scheels Center on Saturday afternoon.

The win came days after the Jackrabbits clinched the Summit League regular season title and gives SDSU a 19-12 record (12-4 Summit League) as they prepare for their first game of the conference tournament, which will take place on Mar. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls. 

“It’s fun to be playing our best basketball at this time,” SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said. “I know our guys are really excited about winning a regular season championship. I don’t want to take that for granted. But we’re also excited for what’s to come.”

The Jacks’ momentum was apparent from the opening tip as their defense helped create some early separation. SDSU went on a 10-0 run that opened a 15-7 lead with 14:11 in the first half and later went on an 18-0 run over five minutes and 25 seconds.

The latter was part of a stretch where SDSU had a 23-5 advantage over the final 7:41 of the first half and the Jacks shot 66 percent from the floor in the opening half to take a 50-27 lead into halftime.

“I thought they were extremely tough,” Henderson said of his team’s performance in the first half. “I thought it all started on the defensive end and I thought we were very connected on that end of the floor and it led us to some good quality offense as well.”

The second half was more of the same as SDSU’s lead remained hovered around 20 points until NDSU cut the lead to 74-58 on Jacari White’s 3-pointer with 3:56 to go. But the Jacks put the Bison in too deep of a hole and were able to ride their offense to victory.

Zeke Mayo led the way for SDSU with 14 points and six rebounds and was among five players who scored in double figures including Charlie Easley (13 points), William Kyle III (12 points, six rebounds) and Nate Barnhart (11 points).

“I thought Zeke was terrific today,” Henderson said. “I thought he was able to get us in some great movement and our guys did a great job of playing with patience. Many times this year and we kind of let teams off the hook and haven’t really made them work [defensively] and I thought today Zeke was a big part of that.”

White led NDSU with 16 points in the game while Boden Skunberg had 12 points, Noah Feddersen had 11 points and Lance Waddles had eight points. Andrew Morgan also had five points and seven rebounds for the Bison.

SDSU shot 55 percent in the game including 8-for-21 (38%) on 3-pointers. SDSU made 2-of-3 free throws, out-rebounded the Bison 29-27 and committed five turnovers.

NDSU shot 48 percent including 9-for-22 (41%) on 3-pointers. The Bison also made 4-of-6 free throws and committed 14 turnovers.

Coming off the regular season finale, the Jacks are now looking ahead to the possibility of winning a Summit League tournament title. To achieve that goal, Henderson believes his team will have to continue the togetherness and toughness they’ve shown over the last several weeks to win the regular season crown.

“We’ve got a target on our back and we do most of the time anyway,” Henderson said. “But you have to have a great amount of togetherness, a great amount of toughness, physicality and you have to have great joy. You have to enjoy the moment. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low because mistakes are going to be made and you have to move on from them because the next play is going to come at you pretty fast.”