Men’s Basketball Preview
The battle for the Summit League men's basketball regular season championship is as tight as it gets as we head into the final full month of the regular season. Three teams are deadlocked at 8-2 with six to play, as South Dakota State, North Dakota State, and Western Illinois all see action today.
SDSU is home to Kansas City today. The Jacks are the hottest team in the Summit League right now with a six game winning streak and a mid-major best 27 game home winning streak. Only Kansas and Syracuse have more consecutive home victories than South Dakota State in all of Division I. A South Dakota State win today would set a school record and come, ironically, against the last team to beat them at Frost Arena, UMKC, back in 2011.
The Jacks have played in front of sell out crowds each of their last two games, and they responded with wins over rivals NDSU and USD. Nate Wolters has sparked SDSU with 45 points, seven three-pointers, and 14 rebounds in those victories, while Jordan Dykstra has been close behind with 32 points, and 21 rebounds, including a double-double (18 points/14 rebounds) against the Coyotes Thursday. Wolters is currently ninth in the nation in scoring (21 points per game) and on pace to become the first player in NCAA division I history to amass 2,300 points (needs 233 more) and 600 assists in a career (needs seven more).
Kansas City (3-7) isn't just coming in off a bad night, the Roos are coming in off of the worst scoring night in the history of the Summit League, as they were routed 71-34 at North Dakota State Thursday night. UMKC's top two scorers, Estan Tyler and Thomas Staton were a combined two-for-nine shooting for eight points, 16 points below their combined average in league play.
During their current three game losing streak, the Roos have just just 35 percent while turning the ball over 53 times. Overall, UMKC is last in the Summit League in assists, turnovers, and points per game, next to last in field goal and three-point percentage.
The Jacks are averaging ten points a game better than the Roos and have really clamped down defensively, shaving two points per game off their opponents totals during their win streak. SDSU takes very good care of the ball, committing the fewest turnovers in the Summit League, the fifth fewest in the nation.
Last month in Kansas City, South Dakota State got 23 points from Wolters, 21 from Dykstra and ended the first half on an 18-0 run in a 77-61 win. The Jackrabbits scored the first five points of the second half to push the run to 23-0 more than enough to overcome the Kangaroos 56 percent shooting in the second half. SDSU shot 51 percent for the game and made a season-high 12 three-pointers. Staton led a trio of Kangaroos in double figures with 14 points. Nelson Kirksey added 12 and Tyler 10.
Tipoff is 4:00pm at Frost Arena in Brookings.
The University of South Dakota Coyotes are in Fargo tonight, a place they haven't won since 2002. They'll face a Bison team that dismantled UMKC Thursday, while USD was falling at South Dakota State by 13.
In that game in Brookings, the Coyotes watched the Jacks hit eight of their first ten shots, including four three-pointers, and then reel off an 18-2 first half and 11-0 second half run to complete the season sweep. USD's usually sharp three-point shooting had an off night, hitting just five-of 14. Casey Kasperbauer made three of those on four attempts to finish with 15 points. The other Coyote shooters were 2-of-10 from behind the arc. Coming into the game, South Dakota had the three most accurate three-point shooters in the conference in Kasperbauer, Jordan Boots, and Brandon Bos.
When USD wasn't missing threes, they were turning the ball over - 17 in all - leading to 15 SDSU points. Inside Trevor Gruis has a frustrating night, just three points and one rebound, while committing four fouls and turning the ball over five times in just 26 minutes. USD's leading scorer Juevol Myles had an off night as well hitting just two of the ten shots he took for six points, 11 under his average.
The Coyotes are still the top scoring team in the conference (78 points per game) and have made the most three-pointers (84). They lead the Summit League in free throw shooting (78 percent), which is good for third best in the nation.
North Dakota State is still without their leading scorer Taylor Braun, who's broken foot has kept him out of the last four games. The Bison have gone 2-2 without him. NDSU got a scare in last Saturday's game against SDSU when TrayVonn Wright (12 points per game) came up limping late in the game. X-rays on his injured foot revealed a sprain and he did play Thursday against UMKC, scoring seven points, while pulling down seven rebounds, in 24 minutes.
NDSU forward Marshall Bjorklund continues to lead the nation in field goal percentage, hitting 71 percent of his shots overall this season, an impressive 78 percent in conference play.
Rebounding could be a real key today. The Bison collected 14 offensive rebounds against Kansas City Thursday, the Coyotes gave up 15 offensive rebounds to South Dakota State. In Summit League play, the Bison have a league-best plus nine margin on the boards.
In the first meeting this season, NDSU scored early and often in Vermillion last month, hitting 21 of their first 26 shots (80 percent), en route to a 92-66 win. Bjorklund led the Bison with 23 points.
Tipoff is 7:00pm in Fargo.