Mayo's 41 points leads SDSU to a 90-85 win over NDSU

(Andrew Holtan/Register) South Dakota State's Zeke Mayo shoots a three during a 90-85 win over North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon at Frost Arena in Brookings. Mayo scored a career-high 41 points in the win.

BROOKINGS – Zeke Mayo scored a career-high 41 points and led South Dakota State to a narrow 90-85 win over North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon at Frost Arena.

Mayo was 14-of-25 from the field and 6-of-9 from three. He also made seven of his eight free throw attempts and had five assists and zero turnovers. Mayo said he knew in the first half that he was going to have a big day.

“I don’t really go into games [thinking that I’m going to score a lot], but I had the rhythm going in the first half. Coach drew up a play for me to go and get a bucket and once coach kind of gives me that green light, that’s when I usually go,” Mayo said.

It was the eighth time in SDSU history that a Jackrabbit has scored 40 or more points and it was the second-highest scoring output from an SDSU player in Frost Arena, only behind Mike Daum who scored 42 points twice. SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said the development of Mayo, who is now averaging 18.1 points per game as a sophomore, has been special to watch.

“What do you say about Zeke? The growth that that young man has showed throughout the year is pretty special. … I’ve always had a lot of confidence in him. … Was he ready [to take over] or was he not ready, was the question. I always knew he had it in him and this year he’s certainly been learning on the job. … I’m just really happy for him as a player and the growth he’s made as a young man and maturity wise,” Henderson said.

NDSU got off to a hot start as the Bison jumped out to a 22-9 lead after going on a 13-3 run. The Jackrabbits then responded with a 14-4 run of their own to cut the lead to 26-23 with just under eight minutes left in the half.

NDSU then led 36-29 with 4:44 left in the first half and that’s when Mayo took over. He scored eight of the final 12 points of the half for the Jacks, including back-to-back threes before the buzzer and SDSU cut the NDSU lead to 43-41 at halftime.

SDSU scored back-to-back buckets to start the second half and that gave the Jacks their first lead of the game at 45-43. The two teams went back-and-forth until a deep three from Mayo gave the Jacks a 60-54 lead. NDSU would then respond right away with five straight points to cut the lead back to one.

The back-and-forth would continue until NDSU was up 78-77 with 3:11 left. William Kyle III then had a dunk to give the Jacks the lead and Mayo followed with two free throws. Kyle then made a lay up with 1:41 left to give the Jacks an 83-78 lead.

A 3-pointer from NDSU’s Jacari White cut the lead to 85-83 with 22 seconds left. Alex Arians then made one of two free throws. A lay up from White on the other end and two free throws from Mayo set up NDSU with a chance to tie the game with eight seconds left.

Boden Skunberg attempted to pass the ball to half court and Mayo intercepted the pass and pushed it ahead to Matt Mims who was fouled. He knocked down two free throws with two seconds left to seal the deal for the Jacks.

Alex Arians had 15 points for the Jacks. As good as Mayo was, he had some help from his two big men in Kyle and Matt Dentlinger. Dentlinger had 17 points and five rebounds, while Kyle had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Henderson said the two forwards had a huge impact on the game.

“They were awesome. They made big plays down the stretch. Their rebounds were huge and the blocks that [Kyle] had were huge. … I thought both of those guys battled and competed like crazy on both ends. They’re also on opposite ends of the spectrum with Matt being in his sixth year and William is just starting this thing, but the impact they’re having is incredible,” Henderson said.

SDSU shot 53.2% from the field and was 8-of-17 from three. NDSU shot 59.6% from the field and was 8-of-18 from three. The Jacks had just two turnovers and were 16-of-21 at the free throw line. NDSU had 10 turnovers and were 9-of-13 at the charity stripe.

The Bison were led by Grant Nelson who had 27 points and 15 rebounds. White had 18 points and Jacari Wheeler-Thomas had 13 points.

This was the 11th straight meeting between the Jackrabbits and Bison that has been decided by six or less points. Henderson said he enjoys these games, even though they make things stressful with how close they are.

“I don’t sleep very good the night before [games against NDSU],” Henderson said with a snicker. “But it’s exciting. I mean what else do you want? The battle, the competition, the respect, how [NDSU] does it. That’s what makes my job, next to the relationships with the [players] that I’m fortunate enough to get to build and watch them succeed and grow, that’s the next best thing. That fire, that competition. I’m too old to play anymore, so I have to find some way and I love it.”

This was the fourth time this season that Mayo has scored 30 points or more and it was the sixth time in the past seven games that he has scored 20 points or more. At the beginning of the season there was question as to whether or not he could take the jump of becoming the main scoring option for the Jacks after Baylor Scheierman and Douglas Wilson left the program.

He’s clearly made that jump and has taken a bigger step than some even thought. Dentlinger said SDSU has bought in to playing through Mayo and letting him be the leader of the team.

“We trust Zeke every possession, just like we trust everyone on the team. Every time we go out there we’re going to give it to the open guy and when it’s time to get a bucket, we trust we’re going to make the right play,” he said.

SDSU now sits alone in second place in the Summit League as the Jacks are now 14-11 overall and 9-4 in conference play. Western Illinois is a game behind them and Oral Roberts is in first as the Golden Eagles are undefeated in conference play. The Jacks have three of their final five home games at home, including next Saturday against South Dakota.