South Dakota State celebrated Senior Night on Saturday in the 41st Annual Pork Classic, and everyone left full and happy after the Jackrabbits closed out the home schedule with a 64-55 win over Western Illinois in front of a sellout crowd of 6,103 at Frost Arena.
The Jackrabbits, who improve to 21-7 overall and take a half game lead in The Summit League standings with a 13-3 record, sent seniors Tony Fiegen and Nate Wolters out in style.
“Senior day is always hard for me, really hard for me, because it means that I have to let go of some kids that we’ve asked a lot of, have been hard on and pushed, but that we love,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “These two guys, Nate and Tony, have impacted my life, and it isn’t just about basketball, it’s just not. They’re great young men. Their parents did a great job raising them and they impacted our whole team. They helped lift our program to a different level.”
The win didn’t come easy for the Jacks, despite an early 19-3 run that put them up 19-7 with 6 minutes, 54 seconds to play in the first half. The Fighting Leathernecks halved that margin before halftime, when SDSU took a 25-19 lead into the locker room.
“As you would expect, it was a grind. They never give you anything easy. They’re good,” Nagy said. “We weren’t very good defensively in the second half, we were in the first half. We shot 29 percent and were up six at half, I felt pretty good. I knew we would loosen up offensively in the second half, I just didn’t realize that we’d be as bad defensively in the second half, but we made enough plays offensively to win the game.”
Western kept that momentum at the start of the second half and used a 14-5 run to take a 33-30 lead with 15:39 left in the game, but the Jacks responded with a 17-6 run to push the lead back to 47-39 with 7:46 on the clock.
The Leathernecks would get as close as two points at 49-47 with 4:15 left, but the Jacks outscored the visitors 15-8 down the stretch to secure their second straight perfect home record and 30th consecutive home win overall.
Wolters led all players in the win with 28 points and with six assists. Jordan Dykstra finished with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season and second in a row. Brayden Carlson finished with 11 points int eh win.
Ceola Clark III led the Leathernecks with 20 points, while Adam Link added 12 points in the loss, which drops Western to 19-6 overall and to 11-3 in league play.
SDSU takes a break from Summit League action next week, with games at CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday and at Murray State on Saturday, Feb. 23, in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters event, a game that can be seen live on ESPN2.
Courtesy: Ryan Sweeter, SDSU