BROOKINGS – It was Alex Arians’ turn Saturday at Frost Arena, and the Jackrabbit guard stepped up and led the way as South Dakota State held off Denver 80-62 in front of 1,595 fans for their sixth straight win to begin conference play.
Arians, a 6-foot-4 junior who has alternated between point guard and forward for the Jacks, came into Saturday’s game averaging a mere 7.2 points despite shooting 46% from the floor and from 3-point land, as he’s often content to leave the scoring to others and serve a facilitator’s role.
But the Pioneers came out in a zone defense on Saturday, perhaps in an attempt to stifle the Jackrabbits’ inside-out style, or to slow down red hot SDSU guard Baylor Scheierman. Instead, they opened the door for Arians to lead the Jacks in scoring for the first time this season.
The southpaw scored a game-high 19 points, making 5-of-8 from 3-point land and scoring 12 of those points in the first half as the Jacks built their lead as high as 26 and kept the Pioneers at bay the rest of the way.
“We have a lot of guys that can do a lot on offense,” Arians said. “Whoever’s open is gonna shoot it. This game, with their zone, which I wasn’t expecting, that helped free us up on the arc a little bit.”
Arians seemed no more excited about his big day than he’s ever been disappointed on days he barely takes any shots, and that’s exactly why coach Eric Henderson was happy to see Arians have a big day.
“I’m really happy for Alex,” Henderson said. “Depending on the game he has a lot of different roles on this team. He’s a guy – sometimes his name is called and sometimes it’s not, and those are the guys it takes to be a special team. To not always know what’s gonna come your way, but to accept that and embrace it for the betterment of the team – so when you do get those opportunities it’s really nice to see when it goes well and he was obviously terrific tonight.”
Scheierman opened the scoring with a 3-pointer that was his 10th consecutive make from the arc (he was 6-for-6 on Thursday in Denver and 3-for-3 last weekend against USD), but cooled off from there, finishing with 11 points to go with a game-high 11 rebounds. Doug Wilson had 11 points and the Jacks got a big day from their bench, with Luke Appel contributing 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Matt Mims scoring 10 points and Matt Dentlinger six.
Meanwhile the Jacks (15-4, 6-0) started the game with a strong defensive surge that set the tone for their offense to reach the 80-point mark yet again. The Jacks led 23-6 midway through the half as the Pioneers failed to get anything going on offense, and though they’d get on track to make the game competitive in the second half, they’d dug themselves too big a hole to threaten to dig out of.
“We wanted to come out strong and get the edge early,” said Jacks guard Charlie Easley. “We paid attention to the scout and we were guarding them on every play, making them take tough shots. That’s what really got us going.”
KJ Hunt had 18 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Pioneers (6-14, 2-5), while Coban Porter had 16 points and Touku Tainamo 13 and six boards. Denver shot 50 percent in the second half but just 28 percent in the first.
SDSU will be on the road this week to face St. Thomas on Thursday and Western Illinois on Saturday. They’re off to a 6-0 start in Summit League play for the first time ever.
“It’s all about us and that’s why SDSU has been successful in the recent past,” Arians said. “We make sure every day it’s about us and what we can get better on. If we continue to do that we’ll be in a good spot at the end of the year.”
SDSU women's basketball roll past Denver 87-43
The South Dakota State women capped off an impressive week on the road, routing Denver 87-43 for their second straight dominant win following last weekend’s humbling loss to rival South Dakota.
The Jackrabbits improve to 6-1 in the Summit League with the win and 10-8 overall.
The last-place Pioneers were never in the game Saturday, as the Jacks had more points at halftime than Denver would get all game. SDSU led 22-10 after one, 48-21 at the half and then outscored the Pios 29-10 in the third to take a 77-31 lead into the final stanza.
SDSU shot 55%, had a 40-27 rebounding edge and forced 19 Denver turnovers. They outscored the Pioneers 56-18 in the paint. Myah Selland had 14 points to lead the Jacks, while Kallie Theisen had 13 and Haleigh Timmer and Tori Nelson 11 each. Paige Meyer and Tylee Irwin had nine apiece and Paiton Burckhard had eight. Meyer had five assists while Burckhard, Theisen and Timmer each had six rebounds. Irwin had four steals and two blocks to highlight an SDSU defense that held DU to 28 percent shooting.
Uju Ezeudu had 13 points to lead Denver (5-13, 0-7).
SDSU will be home this week to face St. Thomas on Thursday and Western Illinois Saturday.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota State basketball beats Denver, wins sixth-straight game