On Wednesday night, the Jaguars returned home after a win at Oral Roberts, taking on South Dakota State Jackrabbits in Indiana Farmers Coliseum. IUPUI entered the game with an 8-11 record, 2-3 in conference. In order to remain in contention for the conference crown, the Jags desperately needed the win.
The game got off to a hot start, as both teams hit 3-pointers in their first possessions. IUPUI showed impressive hustle early, getting on the floor for loose balls and crashing the offensive glass. South Dakota State brought a challenging defense to the table, as they intermittently switched between a 3-2 zone, 2-3 zone, and man defense.
Senior Darell Combs and junior Ron Patterson paced the team early. Patterson did as he usually does and caught fire by pouring in 14 points in the first half. It was difficult to stop South Dakota State’s offense that evening. While there was usually a hand in the face of the Jackrabbit shooters, the shots usually fell through. South Dakota State finished the first half shooting 63 percent from the field, and at the end of play posted a 55 percent success rate.
“It wasn’t about hitting shots, it was about starting on defense,” Patterson said. “I try to let my defense turn to offense, and that’s what I’ve done these last couple games.”
While most of the Jackrabbit players were scoring in bunches, IUPUI made it a point to shut down their post threat, Mike Daum. Entering the game, Daum was averaging 22 points per game. The Jaguars refused to let Daum tear them apart as he has done to countless other opponents. If Daum got a post feed, a help side guard would slide over to double-team. Daum scored just 9 points, only 4 in regulation.
The second half was more of the same. The game was close from tipoff to the final buzzer. There were 11 lead changes in all and 14 ties. Both sides would get slim leads, only for the other to catch fire and snatch the lead right back. In the closing seconds, the conference foes traded baskets and free throws, eventually leading to a tie game at 78. Matt O’Leary was fouled on a drive to the hoop, but both free throws failed to fall through. Time expired in a tie.
South Dakota got the overtime scoring started with an and-one play from Mike Daum. O’Leary redeemed his missed free throws with a gorgeous three pointer to tie the game again at 81. South Dakota State missed, then collected and scored their rebound. IUPUI answered with an acrobatic layup from Combs.
Then came the answer,Combs, the king of clutch. As time wasted away, Combs stood at the top of the key. He dribbled with a confident and concentrated expression. As the time wound to within ten seconds remaining, he made his move. He drove hard for a few steps, stopped on a dime, and pulled up. Combs netted the shot like he was in warmups, and the Jags walked away victorious.
On his confidence approaching that final shot, Combs said, “I was going to go at my pace, my speed. I wouldn’t let nobody speed me up. I was just going to go my speed, and hopefully the shot will go in. And if it don’t, we have another overtime to play.”
IUPUI coach Jason gardner was still pleased with his team, despite some shaky play going down the stretch.
“Overall, I thought both sides competed. South Dakota State had opportunities to win, I thought we had chances to win. It was a very good game,” coach Jason Gardner said about the emotional victory. “Both sides fought hard. I’m very pleased with our guys. We missed some free throws that could have won it, and our guys came back, the momentum swung to South Dakota State and they stayed with it.”
The Jags hope to ride this two game conference win streak into their matchup with Denver at home this Saturday. Denver is 3-3 in conference currently, the same as IUPUI. The Pioneers are coming off of a loss to Omaha, so this could be a prime opportunity for the Jaguars to pounce on another conference victory.