South Dakota State routs Minnesota at Williams

The Gophers never led in the game and trailed by 23 points after the first half.

Gophers guard Nate Mason takes a shot against South Dakota State in Williams Arena on Tuesday night.

Joe Sulik

Gophers guard Nate Mason takes a shot against South Dakota State in Williams Arena on Tuesday night.

by Ryan Falk

The Gophers lost their second straight game at home Tuesday night to another team from South Dakota.
South Dakota State blew out Minnesota 84-70, in a game the Jackrabbits never trailed.
“It’s really disappointing. It was a great opportunity to play against a great team today,” senior forward Joey King said.
The Gophers struggled to score on offense, but their defense put the team behind early and couldn’t slow down the Jackrabbits.
South Dakota State shot 49.2 percent from the floor and 57.9 percent from three.
“They were the better team,” head coach Richard Pitino said. “We were really bad; especially at the beginning, communication was not good in transition.”
The Gophers rarely passed the ball on offense and finished with only 10 assists. Sophomore guard Nate Mason had five assists and led the team in points with 18.
South Dakota’s offense took control of the game from the start, shooting 51.4 percent in the first half and 8-12 from three-point range.
Senior guard Jake Bittle led the Jackrabbits with 17 points in the first half alone on 7-10 shooting, including 3-4 from three. The Gophers offense was sluggish on the other hand, shooting 23.1 percent before halftime.
“We started off slow,” Mason said. “We need to come out with better energy. I think we came out dead again, and that can’t happen.” 
Mason had eight points in the first half and made both of his three-point attempts. 
Minnesota’s shooting from three, and its free throws prevented the score from getting even worse. The Gophers shot 42.9 percent from three and 7-8 from the line in the first half, with six of those free throws coming from freshman guard Dupree McBrayer.
Freshman forward Jordan Murphy, who was named the Big Ten freshman of the week on Monday, was held scoreless in the first half.
Minnesota’s defense managed to start the second half off better, holding the Jackrabbits to only five points in the first four minutes after the break. 
South Dakota State didn’t stay cold for long though and ended up shooting 46.2 percent in the second half. The team also made three of its seven three-point attempts.
“We got to find a way to scratch and claw out of this rut, and it starts with defense,” Pitino said.
The Jackrabbits were able to keep scoring in part due to their transition game, as South Dakota State scored 13 points off of the Gophers’ nine turnovers. Minnesota also struggled to rebound in the game, getting beat 40-32 on the boards Tuesday night.
The Gophers offense improved in the second half, going 8-17 from beyond the arc, but it was not enough to get the team close to a comeback.
“We’re just struggling right now,” King said. “We’re looking for confidence anywhere we can find it. We just got to dig ourselves out of it.”