South Dakota State (9-3) at Belmont (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 19, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Curb Event Center (5,085) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: SDSU 6-0, Belmont 3-0. Away Record: SDSU 1-3, Belmont 3-2. Neutral Record: SDSU 2-0, Belmont 1-1. Conference Record: SDSU 1-0, Belmont 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAMES NOTES: In a showdown of two strong mid-major programs the South Dakota State Jackrabbits and Belmont Bruins will each look to pad their resume when the teams meet up at Curb Event Center on Wednesday night.
South Dakota State will has needed every minute of the three off days that the Jackrabbits had following their 68-67 double overtime triumph against Montana on Saturday. The win was the third straight for South Dakota State which is enjoying a rather successful first 12 games. The bulk of that success has come at home for South Dakota State though since the Jackrabbits are just 1-3 in true road contests. The Jackrabbits are in the midst of a six-game road trip that continues against No. 16 New Mexico on Saturday.
Belmont faced a ranked opponent in its last matchup but was routed 89-60 in Lawrence against No. 9 Kansas. The loss came on the heels of back-to-back wins for the Bruins, who opened the season with four straight victories but have stumbled to a 7-3 overall record through 10 games. Belmont has earned wins in all three of its home games and is coming off a season last year when the Bruins went 13-1 on their home floor. Up next for Belmont is a neutral site matchup with Boston University as part of the UCF Holiday Classic.
This game marks the first time that these two programs have been paired up on a basketball court.
In a game that featured 12 ties and 19 lead changes, South Dakota State managed to hold on to top Montana. The Jackrabbits took a 53-50 lead on a Nate Wolters' 3-pointer with 1:26 remaining but allowed a layup and a free throw to Montana, while missing their final two field goal attempts to send the game to overtime. The Jackrabbits were yet again saved in the first extra session when Kerron DeShields missed a free throw and 3-point attempt in the final five seconds putting the game in a second overtime. In those final five minutes the Jackrabbits found themselves down 67-63 with less than two minutes to play but a 3-pointer from Brayden Carlson and a pair of free throws from Tony Fiegen with nine seconds left sealed the victory.
In comparison to the rest of the Summit League, South Dakota State has been stellar this season. The Jackrabbits are the best scoring team both in terms of points per game (74.7) and field goal percentage (46.5) and also rank at the top of the league in assists per game (15.7). The Jackrabbits defensive efforts do leave a bit to be desired as they let up 67.3 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting. South Dakota State is also the third best rebounding squad in its conference (35.5 pg). The Jackrabbits don't have a ton of depth with the bulk of production coming out of the starting lineup. Wolters (19.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 6.0 apg) leads the way with his ability to score, rebound and distribute so effectively. Jordan Dykstra (13.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is another double figure scorer and the team's best rebounder. Fiegen (10.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is another strong player on both ends. Carlson (9.1 ppg) and Chad White (8.0 ppg) fill out the starting rotation. No other players on the team play more than 20 minutes per game or score more than 6.1 points.
Playing in Lawrence is always tough and Belmont found that out the hard way on Saturday. The Bruins were lit up for the highest point total they have allowed all season as the Jayhawks nailed 50.8 percent of their shots from the floor including 10-of-21 from beyond the arc. Belmont hoisted a ton of shots from 3- point range but hit only 8-of-38, while connecting on 34.4 percent of its shots overall. Belmont was also outscored in points in the paint (36-20) and off turnovers (27-15). Trevor Noack was the only player that managed to get much going offensively as he scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Setting the loss of Kansas aside, Belmont has been one of the stronger mid- major squads in the country. The Bruins enjoy a +10.0 scoring margin by netting 75.1 points per game while shooting at a 46.9 percent clip. Shooting from beyond the arc has usually been a strength with the Bruins connecting on the eighth most shots from distance (90) in the nation while ranking in the top 40 in 3-point field goal percentage. Belmont also limits its opponents to just 39.4 percent shooting. The Bruins could use work on the glass with the team pulling in only 33.5 rebounds per game while holding a -3.0 deficit on the boards. Ian Clark (17.5 ppg) is the top scorer on the squad and has made his mark primarily from beyond the arc where he has shot at an impressive 52.0 percent. Kerron Johnson (13.7 ppg, 4.7 apg) is a competent scorer and plays with the ball in his hands quite a lot as the team's best facilitator. Noack (11.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg) can also be relied on to score in double figures, while Blake Jenkins (9.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg) provides offensive punch and support on the glass.
As mid-majors go both of these squads have looked relatively strong early on. Belmont doesn't do as much work on the glass as it needs to but has largely been able to erase those deficits by burying teams from beyond the arc. Playing back at home should remedy the struggles the Bruins had against Kansas.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Belmont 79, South Dakota State 74
12/19 10:41:14 ET