No moral victory for Jackrabbits

Although his team came close to knocking off the Gophers at home, SDSU head coach Scott Nagy was still not satisfied with the defeat.

Luke Middendorf

Before Wednesday night’s tip-off, it was expected that a 3-5 South Dakota team transitioning to Division I would be satisfied with a close defeat to 6-1 Minnesota coached by Tubby Smith at home.

But after the Jackrabbit’s 78-72 loss to the Gophers (7-1 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) at Williams Arena, head coach Scott Nagy said he was anything but satisfied.

“There is no one in our locker room that feels good about this,” Nagy said in his post-game press conference.

Although SDSU (3-6 overall, 0-2 Summit League) out-played Minnesota in many of the statistical facets of the game, the Gophers senior leadership and gutsy play by their freshman allowed them to hold on to a narrow six point victory.

The most staggering statistic from the game can be seen in the rebounding category, where the undersized Jackrabbits finished with a 41-26 advantage.

“It’s a heart stat,” Nagy said about his team’s rebounding success. “The effort was there.”

Gophers’ coach Tubby Smith said he was impressed by SDSU’s ability to crash the boards.

“If you look at the rebounding edge, we should have been beat,” Smith said. “We’ve got to get guys more excited and more aggressive to get to the boards.”

Nagy pointed to his team’s inability to close out the game as the deterring factor, as the Jackrabbits took a 66-65 lead with 6:19 left in the regulation but could not hold on to it for more than a minute.

Defense and turnovers were the two key areas that Nagy pointed to for his team’s late game meltdown, characteristics that he said are unlike his teams of the past.

“Our execution late in the game was horrible,” Nagy said. “We’re just not any good defensively. I am so sick of it. It just bothers the heck out of me.”

One area that SDSU could not avoid or prepare differently for was their youth, as many of their key players are freshman or sophomores.

“We play a lot of young guys,” Nagy said. “They’re young. They’re babies.”

Although Nagy said he was disappointed in the outcome of the game and believed that his team could have and should have won, he also added that he was happy that they came ready to play.

“We showed up and looked them in the eye. That’s the way we are capable of playing,” Nagy said. “We can look in the mirror and say that we showed up.”