by Candis Cunningham
It was raining threes in Thursday night’s conference opener in the Jungle. IUPUI (2-6, 0-1 Summit) cut into a double digit deficit in the second half to fall short in overtime to the South Dakota Jackrabbits (5-3, 1-0 Summit) 97-93.
SDSU’s Nate Wolters led all scorers with 32 points and eight rebounds and eight assists. He along with five other Jackrabbits hit a three in the first half as they ended the first segment of the game 8-of-14 (57.1 percent) from long range. The shooting turned a 27-25 lead into a 44-31 halftime lead. SDSU went on a 17-6 run and coupled on 5-of-7 three-pointers including a twosome of makes by Zach Monaghan.
The half stayed close as the Jags never went higher than a two point advantage. At about midway through the half, Jordan Shanklin came off the bench with an assist to Alex Young for a two point lead, but the next five points were scored by SDSU and helped sustain a 44-31 lead at halftime. Young led all Jags with 28 points.
The second half intensity slipped for IUPUI, partially because Young sat on the bench for a large portion of it. But, when he arrived the Jungle went wild as he scored three consecutive three pointers with 53 seconds left. He turned a four point deficit into an 82-80 lead. SDSU’s offensive champion Wolters made it tough as he responded with a three to give the Jackrabbits the lead back with slightly less than 30 seconds left on the clock.
"(The threes) were falling because the passing was there," Coach Todd Howard said. "They were falling because we were in transition or we were playing good basketball. Once we relaxed, we probably shot 60 or 70 percent when we made four or five passes and that's got to be the way we play."
Senior Stephen Thomas, who finished with 11 points and a career-high eight assists, missed a shot and was forced to foul after SDSU made two free throws. Junior Sean Esposito drove to the basket drawing a foul but only hit one of two free throws. Missing the second, Young came up with the offensive rebound, the put back attempt and finally connected on both free throws with 4.0 on the clock tying game. Wolters missed on a challenged mid-range jumper taking the game into overtime, 85 all.
"In the second half, we couldn't string together three or four possessions at a time where we rebounded," IUPUI Head Coach Todd Howard said. "It's been an Achilles heel and it stung us tonight. I thought our defensive effort was fine and then the ball bounces to them or we missed a block out or they went and got it."
In overtime, the Jags went up 89-88, but after the Jackrabbit’s Brayden Carlson drained his team another three they went down 91-88. IUPUI came back to tie the game at a minute left, but a score off an offensive rebound from Griffan Callahan sealed the deal for the South Dakota. Callahan ended with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the win.
"You've got to rebound to get stops and we just gave up too many offensive rebounds,” said Howard.
Six Jags finished with a double-double, including senior Christian Siakam with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
"The urgency came, it was just 12 to 18 minutes too late," Howard said. "I hope our urgency is there from the get-go and I hope it's there tomorrow (in practice). You need to go 1-0, but now we need to get to 1-1 (in The Summit)."
The defeat starts IUPUI, who was predicted at a fourth place finish in the conference, at 0-1 in the Summit League and 6-3 all-time against SDSU.
A slow start led to the worst season record in over a decade as IUPUI (2-7, 0-2 Summit) fell 84-79 to North Dakota State in the Jungle Saturday night.
An early 13-0 NDSU run was led by sophomore Taylor Braun with 30 points along with TrayVonn Wright who added 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Jags were tied at 6-6, but the 13 point path started with three point buckets from Lawrence Alexander and Braun on consecutive possessions. Dylan Hale found his trey not long after and scored another deuce in transition from a steal.
NDSU (7-1, 1-1 Summit) shot a superior 62.2 percent from the floor and was over 50 percent from behind the arc (6-of-11). In the first half, the Jags fell as many 19 points. Sophomore Ian Chiles interrupted a Bison pass to score on the other end and cut the deficit to 14, 45-31.
The second half defense was the Achilles heel for IUPUI as the lack of defensive stops brought to surface how poorly the offense was performing. Senior Alex Young led the Jags with 20 points and Sean Esposito followed with 14 points off the bench. IUPUI was held to 35.5 percent shooting and only 20.8 percent from trey land.
The Jungle started to roar at 5:36 remaining when the team got within 10. Jordan Shanklin hit a three and Stephen Thomas scored on a fast break layup from a steal. Freshman Marcellus Barksdale got his spotlight after winning the battle on the glass on a fourth consecutive shot attempt. IUPUI outrebounded NDSU 41-35, 24 offensive.
The Bison bull dozed their way back to a 14 point lead but with a late bloom, IUPUI cut into the lead severely. Sean Esposito took advantage of his free space at the line after NDSU’s Mike Felt was called for a flagrant foul with an elbow into Esposito’s chest. Esposito scored on the next two possessions with a three ball and a jumper to take the Jags within six.
A Greg Rice steal and layup took the game to 83-79 with four seconds left on the clock, but Nate Zastrow converted on the line after being fouled. The loss dropped the IUPUI to 2-7 and is the worst since 1999-2000 season. The 0-2 Summit League start is the worst since 2000-01 season when the Summit League was the Mid-Continent Conference.
Christian Siakam finished with eight points and six rebounds, while Donovan Gibbs and Thomas both added six.
Next Wednesday the Jags take a two hour bus ride down to Louisville to play their second Big East opponent of the year. They are 0-1 all-time against Louisville and 1-9 against Big East opponents. It will be a home going for three Jags, Chiles, Gibbs and Lyonell Gaines, as well Tipoff is at 7 p.m.