IUPUI (6-20) at South Dakota State (19-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 14, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Frost Arena (6,500) -- Brookings, South Dakota. Television: FCS, Midco Sports Net. Home Record: IUPUI 4-7, SDSU 11-0. Away Record: IUPUI 1-11, SDSU 6-7. Neutral Record: IUPUI 1-2, SDSU 2-0. Conference Record: IUPUI 1-11, SDSU 10-3. Series Record: South Dakota State leads, 6-6.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Summit League squads heading in opposite directions are set for a Thursday night showdown, as the South Dakota Jackrabbits entertain the IUPUI Jaguars at Frost Arena.
IUPUI's season has been a struggle from the very beginning, as it owns just a 6-20 overall record, and it occupies last place in the Summit League (1-11). The Jaguars' woes have reached a new low in the past six weeks, and following an 85-78 loss at home to Nebraska-Omaha last Saturday, they have now dropped 10 straight games dating back to late December.
While IUPUI has struggled, SDSU has soared to a 19-7 record, and at 10-3 in leagua action it is just a half game behind Western Illinois for first place. The Jackrabbits had been winners of a season-high, eight straight games heading into Saturday's matchup, but they fell on the wrong end of an 88-83 decision at Oakland. Luckily they will play this one at home where they have yet to lose in 11 matchups this season.
SDSU has won five straight bouts with IUPUI, including an 80-65 road triumph on Jan. 19, to even the all-time series at 6-6.
Surprisingly enough, IUPUI held a comfortable 51-34 lead over Omaha at the break in its latest game, but it was outshot from the field in the second half (63 percent to 40 percent) and outscored from the foul line (14-1) as it saw that advantage slip away down the stretch. Even in defeat, Sean Esposito and Mitchell Patton were both outstanding with 23 points apiece, combining to shoot 18-of-27 from the field. Esposito did most of his damage from 3-point range (7-of-10), and Patton added seven rebounds and four blocks. Greg Rice chipped in 16 points and five assists in the setback, while Donovan Gibbs scored 12 points.
While the Jaguars' offense this season has been solid (.448 FG percentage, 67.8 ppg), their defense has been nothing short of awful, as they allow teams to net nearly 77 ppg on 49.3 percent shooting from the field. With leading scorer John Hart (14.2 ppg) ruled ineligible, Patton has assumed the role of the team's top performer with 13.8 ppg, doing so on nearly 60 percent accuracy from the field. Gibbs brings 10.4 ppg and 6.3 rpg to the table.
SDSU and Oakland battled back and forth in last weekend's clash, but Oakland snapped a tie midway through the second half with a 9-0 run and the Jackrabbits would never recover. Nate Wolters' incredible play of late continued in the loss, as he tallied 36 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and in the process became the school's all-time leader in assists (609). Chad White was impressive as well with 21 points, while Brayden Carlson and Tony Fiegen tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Wolters is just a week removed from a 53-point effort against IUPU-Fort Wayne, the highest single-game total in Division I in the past three seasons, and that combined with his latest outburst has allowed him to climb all the way to No. 4 on the nation's scoring chart with 22.8 ppg. The senior guard also adds 5.8 rpg and 5.5 apg, and if he can keep this pace up, he'll be the first player in NCAA history to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game in two different seasons -- since assists became an official stat in 1983. Jordan Dykstra (12.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Fiegen (10.4 ppg) have been more than adequate second options for the Jackrabbits, who put up 73.7 ppg while surrendering 66.3 ppg.
With one of the league's best teams hosting its last-place club, this one likely won't be close. Expect Wolters to go off once again against the porous IUPUI defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Dakota State 88, IUPUI 70
02/14 10:32:35 ET