Death. Taxes. South Dakota State in Sioux Falls. For the third straight year and fifth in the last seven, the Jackrabbits are going dancing after toppling in-state rival South Dakota, 97-87 .
The game opened up at a fever pitch as you could feel the intensity from both fanbases in the arena. Dubbed as the biggest sporting event in South Dakota history, both teams were ready to go at it from the jump.
As many would have expected, Mike Daum and Matt Mooney got going early. Daum connected on a pair of threes in the first five minutes, but a quick pair of fouls sent him to the bench for the remainder of the half. Conventional wisdom would say that this was South Dakota’s chance to build a bit of a cushion on the scoreboard.
Well, conventional wisdom doesn’t always come through. With Daum on the bench, the Jackrabbits supporting cast stepped up in a big way in the first half. Freshman David Jenkins carried the offense with 16 points in the first half, and the Jackrabbits connected on eight threes to build a 47-35 cushion going into the locker room, despite the 11 lead changes in the first half. Matt Mooney had 12 points in the opening frame, but did so on 5-12 shooting as his frustration grew late in the half.
The second half opened up with Daum asserting himself. He connected on two threes in the first two minutes to push the Jackrabbit lead up to 18. The lead ballooned up to 20 at one point, but South Dakota was able to cut the deficit to 11 with 10 minutes to play.
Daum put that notion to rest quickly though. A quick 5-0 run of his own got the lead back up to 16 at the under-8 media timeout. As they did all half, South Dakota chipped away at the lead, eventually cutting it to eight with just over five minutes to play. Huge threes by Tyler Hagedorn and Tyler Peterson helped the Coyotes stay within striking distance. The Jackrabbits took that eight point lead to the under-4 media timeout with Mooney headed to the line.
Mooney hit both free throws to cut the lead to six out of the break. That’s as close as the Coyotes would get though. The Jackrabbits closed out the game at the free throw line down the stretch, and eventually prevailed despite a 30-point effort by Mooney.
The huge performances from Daum and Jenkins propelled South Dakota State to victory, but the Jackrabbits’ offense as a whole showed why it’s so dangerous. They knocked in 14-28 threes, and seemingly got whatever they wanted against a good South Dakota defense. Reed Tellinghuisen had a double-double, while guys like Brandon Key and Skyler Flatten also had key buckets in the win.
The Jackrabbits will be a trendy upset pick when the bracket gets released this Sunday. Bracket Matrix currently projects them as a 13 seed, but they could very well move up to the 12 line with some help. One thing is for sure though: nobody is going to want to face this offense in the first round.