South Dakota State (3-4) at UC Santa Barbara (2-2)
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 29, 10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Thunderdome (5,600) -- Santa Barbara, California. Television: None. Home Record: SDSU 3-1, UCSB 1-1. Away Record: SDSU 0-2, UCSB 1-1. Neutral Record: SDSU 0-1, UCSB 0-0. Conference Record: SDSU 0-0, UCSB 0-0. Series Record: South Dakota State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos welcome the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to The Thunderdome on Friday night for a non-conference tilt.
Coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids, South Dakota State is off to a 3-4 start in 2013-14. However, the Jackrabbits picked up some steam earlier this week by winning the Progressive Legends Classic, Brookings Subregional. After notching a 77-65 win over Howard on Monday night, they followed through with a 74-61 triumph over Lehigh in Tuesday's title game.
UCSB began the season 2-0 but has since lost two straight. The Gauchos are coming off last Thursday's 76-68 setback at Colorado, which came five days after falling at home to Utah State, 71-64. Following this contest, they'll play only one more home game until the month of January.
South Dakota State won the only prior meeting between these two schools, which took place back in 1961.
SDSU capitalized on a couple of home matchups earlier this week at Frost Arena where the team entered the 2013-14 season with a Division I-best, 30-game home winning streak (Montana snapped that streak on Nov. 14). The Jackrabbits shot 10-of-20 from 3-point range against Lehigh and also made 14-of-16 free throws, which was attributed largely to tournament MVP Jordan Dykstra. The senior forward poured in a career-high 32 points to go along with 13 rebounds, as he shot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and knocked down 12-of-13 free throws. Dykstra posted double-doubles in both games of the tournament, while Cody Larson averaged 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two games to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. SDSU jumped out to an early 10-point lead against Lehigh and later took a 12-point lead into the break.
UCSB's Alan Williams was averaging a team-best 24 points and 13 rebounds through the first two games. But minutes prior to the Utah State game on Nov. 16, he suffered back spasms during warmups and was scratched from the starting lineup, then sat out the Colorado game the following week. The Gauchos are also without swingman John Green (8.0 ppg) for 4-6 weeks due to a sprained left foot. In their absences, Taran Brown stepped up with 23 points and seven rebounds off the bench against Colorado, while Michael Bryson added 12 points, and Eric Childress scored 10. However, with bigs Sam Beeler and Mitch Brewe both on the bench with five fouls late in regulation, UCSB was forced to go with two points guards and three wings down the stretch. Colorado capitalized with a 20-14 rebounding advantage in the second half, to go along with a 19-1 scoring edge at the foul line over the final 20 minutes.
Whether or not Williams plays will factor heavily into how this game is decided. The Jackrabbits have hardly resembled the team that has gone to The Big Dance in each of the last two years, but their subregional title in the Legends Classic should provide a nice confidence boost moving forward.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Dakota State 73, UC Santa Barbara 67
11/29 10:55:02 ET