BROOKINGS, S.D. – Senior Kellon Thomas ended the game bloodied and Head Coach Jason Gardner‘s gray jacket didn’t come close to making it through the end of the night, getting tossed aside early in the second half. Between the lines, the IUPUI basketball team was on the wrong end of a hard fought 81-67 outcome to South Dakota State inside SDSU’s Frost Arena on Wednesday night (Feb. 15).
The two teams racked up 49 combined fouls and three players were disqualified as the two teams grappling in the standings, grappled tooth and nail for 40 minutes.
South Dakota State (13-16, 6-8 Summit) outscored IUPUI (11-16, 5-8) 55-34 in the second half and 25-8 at the free throw line to leapfrog the Jaguars in the league rankings. SDSU’s Mike Daum led four Jackrabbits in double-digits with 26 points and nine boards while Chris Howell had 16 points and 12 rebounds. IUPUI senior Matt O’Leary pumped in 23 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the year and seventh 20-plus scoring game of the season. Classmate Darell Combs chipped in 17 points in the loss.
IUPUI led 33-26 at the break, capped by an O’Leary three in the closing seconds, before seeing the hosts essentially erase the lead in the opening minutes of the second stanza.
“I thought those first couple minutes of the second half were really important and we didn’t really respond the way I would’ve liked us to,” Gardner said. “We knew they were going to come out (in the second half) with a lot of energy and we didn’t really match their energy.
“They banged in a couple threes and that really gave them momentum.”
The Jaguars led virtually the entire first half, pushing the lead to seven on several occasions. IUPUI built an early 15-8 lead behind O’Leary’s two early treys and a Ron Patterson jumper and maintained the advantage until halftime. SDSU scored the first six points of the second half, prompting Gardner to call an early timeout.
Combs halted the run with a pull-up three and the Jags fended off the hosts until an 8-0 run later gave SDSU the lead. Reed Tellinghuisen began the rally with an open three and was followed by four points from Daum. Skyler Flatten added to the run with a layup, putting the Jackrabbits in front 46-40 with 12:30 to play.
IUPUI got within two with opportunities to tie or take the lead, but could never scale the mountain over the final 12-plus minutes. Down seven with just under six minutes to play, O’Leary drained a long triple and then collected a steal and fed Patterson for a fast break dunk to make it a two-point game. However, Daum scored on a 12-footer and Tellinghuisen answered with back-to-back threes to help bury the Jags. IUPUI never got a defensive stop inside the final two minutes as SDSU was able to extend the lead at the free throw line when the Jaguars were forced to foul.
SDSU finished 25-of-32 (78.1 percent) from the free throw line while IUPUI hit just 8-of-14 (57.1 percent) attempts. The Jaguars did the bulk of their firing from behind the arc, hitting 9-of-32 (28.1 percent) from long range. O’Leary hit 5-of-10 attempts while T.J. Henderson had a pair of connections off the Jagaurs’ bench.
Patterson closed with eight points while Thomas had seven. Both Aaron Brennan and Henderson scored six apiece to round out the Jags’ scoring. Sophomore guard D.J. McCall grabbed eight boards in 19 minutes and senior forward Josh James had seven rebounds in just 11 minutes off the bench, claiming the minutes of the injured Evan Hall.
“Winning on the road is one of the hardest things to do in college basketball. (SDSU) is really tough on their home floor and they showed it tonight. I don’t think we fully took advantage of how well we played defensively in the first half. Instead of leading by seven at halftime, we had an opportunity to lead by 10 or 12 and we just didn’t capitalize. You can’t leave points out there on the road and expect to win.”
SDSU shot better than 60 percent after halftime to finish at 51 percent overall. The Jacks made 5-of-11 second half threes and were a perfect 16-of-16 from the free throw line.
“We’ve got to regroup and find a way to get a road win at another tough opponent on Sunday,” Gardner said of his team’s upcoming game at Denver. “That’s another challenge in this league is that the travel can wear you down. Our guys will have to take care of their bodies, get in the training room and get ready for another tough battle.”
IUPUI will close the regular season road schedule on Sunday afternoon (Feb. 19) when the Jaguars face Denver at 3:00 p.m. Eastern inside DU’s Magness Arena. That game will be televised on Altitude Sports and heard in Central Indiana on 97.5 Fox Sports FM, 1260 WNDE and the iHeartRadio app as Morgan Adcock (pxp) is on the call.