Balanced Jackrabbits bounce Belmont, 85-72
All five Jackrabbit starters scored in double figures as South Dakota State shot a season-high 57.4 percent from the floor in an 85-72 win over Belmont on Saturday at Frost Arena.
Brayden Carlson led the way for the Jacks, who improve to 5-7 on the season, with 20 points. Cody Larson scored 16 points and finished with game-highs with nine rebounds and with four assists. Jordan Dykstra went just 1 for 3 from the floor, but connected on nine of his 10 free throws to finish with 11 points, while Chad White finished with 10 points.
“I was frustrated in the first half with all of the turnovers because we were obviously shooting the ball well, but we thought we should’ve been up by more, but we just didn’t take good care of the basketball,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “We did take care of it in the second half, and when a couple of those shots go in, it gives you energy. I though Cody established the inside for us on the offensive and defensive ends, and our other guys like Brayden, Jordan and Chad did what they normally do, and the big difference for us was Jake coming back.”
Jake being Jake Bittle, who finished the game with a career-high 19 points in his first home game of the season after sitting out eight games with an injury before returning to the floor in Tuesday’s game at Minnesota.
Belmont, which falls to 8-3, saw four players score in double figures, led by Craig Bradshaw and his 17 points; with J.J. Mann adding 15, Blake Jenkins 14 and Caleb Chowbay 10 in the loss.
Trailing 6-8 early in the game, the Jacks used an 8-0 run to take a lead they would never relinquish. SDSU led by as many as six points on four more occasions in the first half and let the Bruins get within one point at 30-29 before taking a 36-33 lead into the locker room at halftime.
SDSU committed of its 12 turnovers in the first half, but continued to shoot well in the second half, opening the stanza with 3-pointers from White, Anders Broman and Bittle to increase the lead to 12 points at 51-39 with 15 minutes and 51 seconds left in the game.
The Jackrabbits pushed the lead to as many as 19 points midway through the half, only to see the Bruins mount a comeback to get within seven points at 71-64 with 4:44 left to play.
Free throws made the difference down the stretch, as the Jackrabbits went 10 of 12 from the charity stripe over the last 4:10 to secure the win.
The Jackrabbits look to make it five in a row at home on Wednesday, when they host the Wayne State Wildcats at Frost Arena at 7 p.m.
NOTES: The Jackrabbit win ties the series with Belmont at 1-1, with each team winning on its home floor ... the teams played in front of 2,037 fans at Frost Arena ... five Jackrabbits scored in double figures for the second time this season, the first being in an 83-62 win over Southwest Minnesota State on Nov. 18 ... SDSU improves to 3-0 this season when shooting at least 50 percent from the floor and to 3-1 this season when scoring at least 80 points, with the lone loss coming in an 98-89 loss to Loyola Marymount on Nov. 9 ... Bittle tops his previous career-high of 18 points, set on Nov. 8 at San Diego ... Carlson scored at least 20 points for the first time this season and for the third time in his career, the other times being a career-high 23 vs. Marshall on Nov. 17, 2012, and 20 against Michigan on March 21, 2013 in the NCAA Tournament ... White moved from 35th on the SDSU all-time scoring list into a tie for 33rd with Gene Zulk (1699-69) with 1,073 career points