College men's basketball: Wildcats top Jackrabbits in Manhattan

South Dakota State’s Charlie Easley dribbles the ball during a 91-68 loss to Kanas State in Manhattan, Kansas, on Monday night. Easley led the Jackrabbits with 21 points in the loss. (Andrew Pedersen/SDSU Athletics)

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The South Dakota State men’s basketball team dropped to 1-2 on the season after losing to Kansas State 91-68 on Monday night.

The Wildcats used a strong shooting performance to pull away in the second half as they shot 57% from the field in the game and were 14-of-25 from three. SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said he liked the way his team competed, but in the end KSU just made too many shots.

“I thought our guys had fight. It’s not like I thought that was lacking or anything. But part of it is they made so many shots,” Henderson said.

SDSU fell behind 14-4 seven minutes into the game. The Jacks slowly climbed back into the game and trailed 29-24 with six minutes left in the first half. The Wildcats then went on a 9-0 run to go up 14 with 1:30 left in the half. Zeke Mayo hit a 3-pointer and made a lay up before the half was over to make the deficit 38-29 at halftime.

The closest SDSU would get in the second half was eight points as it trailed 43-35 with 18 minutes left in the game. The Wildcats then outscored the Jacks 30-20 over the next 10 minutes and led 73-55 with just under eight minutes to play. KSU’s largest lead of the night came with 11 seconds left as it led 91-66.

Kansas State was 8-of-11 from three in the second half and had 17 total fast break points on the night. Henderson said the Wildcats’ transition offense made it tough for his team and that gave the Wildcats a lot of confidence as the game went on.

“[Kansas State] played great. They can play with such great pace. We talked about the glass and having to win the rebounding battle. Well their bigs do such a great job of defensive rebounding that they can get out and run, and that’s what I thought they did. I thought they played with great pace and got some easy buckets in transition and fed off of that energy,” Henderson said.

SDSU shot 42% from the field and was 7-of-21 from three. Charlie Easley led the Jacks with 21 points, which was one point off of a career-high. He was 9-of-13 from the field. Luke Appel had 16 points and seven rebounds. Mayo had 11 points, six assists and four rebounds. William Kyle III had nine points.

Henderson said Easley always brings intensity and it should help SDSU down the road.

“[Toughness[ is something that you know you’re going to get out of Charlie every night. … Offensively he gave us a nice punch and he’s always so active. His hands are super active and he’s going to help us win a lot of games this year,” Henderson said.

Seven of the 10 players that saw action for the Jackrabbits on Monday night were sophomores or freshmen. Henderson said this non-conference portion of the schedule will be a good learning tool for those young guys.

“We’re getting some young guys experience, that’s for sure. It’s a [tough] schedule, but it will pay off at some point here. It’s just some consistency things and some body language things that we have to clean up as well. Little things that are attention to detail type stuff that always come back to bite you,” Henderson said.

The Wildcats were led by Cam Carter who had 25 points. Tylor Perry had 22 points and was 6-of-8 from three. RJ Jones had 14 points and Will McNair Jr. had 10 points and seven rebounds.

K-State won the rebound battle 38-32. SDSU had 13 offensive rebounds and 10 second chance points, but the Wildcats had eight offensive boards and 16 second chance points. The Wildcats had 17 turnovers and the Jacks scored 15 points off of them. The Jacks had 14 turnovers and the Wildcats scored 15 points off of them.

SDSU will stay on the road as the Jacks will head to Florida next to play in the Jacksonville Classic. Games will be played in St. Augustine and they’ll play UCF at 7 p.m on Sunday. SDSU will then play either Charlotte or George Mason on Monday at either 5 or 7:30 p.m.

Henderson said the biggest thing he took away from Monday night’s loss is that his team needs to be better connected.

“We have a really hard schedule, but I don’t want to make excuses. We should have competed and done some things tonight that could have kept us in the game better. It’s a lot of those little things. … We have to be more connected as a unit on both sides of the ball because nobody can do it themselves. It’s a learning process,” Henderson said.