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MEN'S BASKETBALL: South Dakota State holds off UND surge for 77-70 victory

The South Dakota State men's basketball team is much different this season without guard Nate Wolters, a dynamic playmaker who graduated last season and now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA.

UND's Shane Benton is fouled by SDSU's Connor Devine
UND's Shane Benton is fouled by SDSU's Connor Devine in Saturday's game at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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The South Dakota State men's basketball team is much different this season without guard Nate Wolters, a dynamic playmaker who graduated last season and now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA.

That doesn't mean the Jackrabbits are any easier to guard this season.

SDSU 6-foot-9 post Cody Larson, who transferred to Brookings from the Florida Gators, put up 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Jacks pulled away from UND late for a 77-70 victory Saturday afternoon at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

SDSU improved to 7-7, while North Dakota dropped to 3-7. UND only possesses one Division I victory -- an 18-point win over rival North Dakota State.

"I told Scott before the game that they're tougher to prepare for now," UND coach Brian Jones said of SDSU head coach Scott Nagy. "Now, they have different options that can score inside and outside. They're tough to guard with the way they stretch the floor."


Larson, a Sioux Falls, S.D., native, was 8-for-14 from the field, while teammate Jordan Dykstra -- a 6-foot-8 forward -- made big plays down the stretch and finished with nine points.

Larson and Dykstra were a tough matchup for a North Dakota team playing without three regular posts. Senior Brandon Brekke has been out all season with concussion symptoms, while Ryan Salmonson and Alonzo Traylor are out with ankle sprains.

As a result, SDSU outrebounded UND 34-26 -- an advantage that resulted in the Jacks' 14-7 edge in second-chance points.

After trailing most of the second half, UND pulled to within 59-58 with 6 minutes, 52 seconds to play when freshman Quinton Hooker hit a runner off the glass.

UND would go the next four-and-a-half minutes without a bucket as SDSU pushed its lead to 70-58, keyed by 3-pointers by Dykstra and Brayden Carlson, who ended with a team-high 22 points.

"We had five turnovers in six possessions with a blocked shot, and they go on an 11-0 run," Jones said. "We turned the ball over 10 times for the game but five of them came in that stretch."

The sloppy play in that span took away from a monster game by Troy Huff, who finished with 30 points on 10-for-14 shooting. Huff, who had 19 points in the first half, nailed 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. It was the third time this season Huff has reached the 30-point mark.

"We spent all this time talking about (guarding Huff), and we come out and give up a dunk to start the game," Nagy said. "That's how he gets going. He's a great player. With a player like that, if you let them get going right away sometimes it doesn't matter what you do after that. You have to manage those kinds of players from the start."


UND doesn't play again until visiting Northern Colorado on Dec. 29 to begin Big Sky Conference play. The few days off should benefit North Dakota, which also saw Josh Schuler leave the game with a nagging shoulder injury.

In part because of the post injuries, UND's bench kicked in just five points against the Jacks.

"The break couldn't have come at a better time," Huff said. "We're ready to come back and get after it for Big Sky play."

Jones wasn't able to say when UND will have the availability of Salmonson, Traylor or Schuler. If their absences are extensive, UND might continue to struggle with big opponents in Big Sky play.

"This was a bad matchup for us losing size like we did because that's who (the Jacks) are," Jones said. "We have to be scrappy and make teams work for points."

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