Jackrabbits take care of Denver down the stretch

(Andrew Holtan/Register) South Dakota State's William Kyle III dunks the ball during the first half of a 76-61 victory over Denver on Saturday afternoon at Frost Arena.


BROOKINGS – A passionate final five minutes from the South Dakota State men led to a 76-61 victory over Denver on Saturday afternoon at Frost Arena.

With 4:50 left in the game the Jackrabbits led 63-57. That’s when SDSU’s leading scorer Zeke Mayo went down with a leg injury after a Pioneer dove for the basketball and fell into Mayo’s right leg. He was helped off the floor and did not return.

After a pair of free throws from William Kyle III, SDSU head coach Eric Henderson picked up a technical foul. Denver’s Tommy Burner then made two technical free throws, but the Jacks would outscore the Pioneers 13-2 in the final 4:50 and picked up the victory. Henderson said he was fired up and the technical ended up firing up the rest of the team.

“I was fiery alright,” Henderson said. “I didn’t need much help getting fired up, and our guys probably didn’t need much either, but it didn’t hurt. Obviously it helped get us connected and the energy in the building was pretty good. We were able to get a bunch of stops after that and created a little bit of an advantage on the offensive end too.”

The 13-2 run to end the game was highlighted by seven points from William Kyle III, including an impressive one-handed put back dunk, and multiple blocks from both Kyle and Matt Dentlinger.

Junior guard Matt Mims said once Mayo went down it really fueled the team to go out and get a victory.

“I think we knew it was time go. Obviously Zeke went down and he’s a big part of our team and when we saw him go down we really just came together and we were like, let’s win this game for him. We didn’t like to see him go down obviously, that mindset helped us and carried us to a win,” Mims said.

Kyle finished the day with a career-high 19 points, four rebound and two blocks. Henderson said that he knew the freshman from Bellevue, Nebraska was going to impact his team from the moment he came to Brookings.

“He’s been dynamic,” Henderson said of Kyle. “I mean; he is a dynamic player. Defensively, I thought he was super engaged that second half. He was sitting down in his stance and he has great timing. Once in awhile he’ll go for some shot fakes, but he’s a great second jump too, so he’s able to make an impact around the rim a lot. But he can do it on both ends. A lot like [former Jackrabbit] Doug Wilson, I always knew what Doug Wilson could do the moment he stepped on campus, and that’s a lot like Will. I felt like defensively he could really help us right now.

“… Offensively, he’s got a great feel and he’s got great touch around the rim. He’s 7-9 from the free throw line. He’s comfortable with the ball and he’s a good passer like Doug was. So, it’s been fun watch him grow, especially offensively, and defensively he’s gaining confidence as well.”

Mayo’s injury overshadowed an impressive performance from him. He finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists, but scored 23 of those points in the first half.

SDSU led 13-12 with just under 12 minutes to play in the first half. Mayo would then score 11-straight points for the Jacks and that gave them a 24-16 lead with 8:30 left in the half. Denver used a 14-2 run to take a 30-28 lead with 2:22 left in the half but back-to-back threes from Mayo in the final minute and a half gave the Jacks a 37-34 lead going into the locker room.

Mayo went 7-11 from three in the first half and Henderson said after the game that he would be fine moving forward.

“I think he’ll be alright. It’s looking like that. You know, he has to go through a few more tests and I’ll find out more. He’s sore now, don’t get me wrong. He’s stiff and he’s sore. I’m pretty hopeful, but there’s still some things we have to check out and make sure he’s ok,” Henderson said.

SDSU shot 49.1% from the field and was 11-25 from three. Mims had 14 points and Dentlinger finished with 12 points.

Denver shot 44.6% from the field and was 5-18 from beyond the arc. Tainmo Touko had 14 points and eight rebounds. Lukas Kisunas had 14 points and seven rebounds. Tommy Bruner had 11 points.

The Pioneers won the rebound battle 32-30. The Jacks had nine turnovers and went 13-15 at the free throw line. Denver had 14 turnovers and was 6-10 at the charity stripe.

This was SDSU’s fourth straight win and the Jacks are now 11-9 overall and 5-2 in the Summit League. The Jacks will begin the back half of the conference schedule next week as they travel St. Thomas on Thursday, Western Illinois on Saturday and Kansas City on Jan. 30. Mims said he feels like SDSU has made a lot of strides since its conference opening loss against Oral Roberts, but there’s still work to do.

“I think the vibes are great [right now]. I think we’re finally starting to understand more about how much we have to give to win and what we have to do to be successful. I mean, everyday we’re just going to be working and keep trying to get better in practice and keep going forward one foot at a time,” Mims said.

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