GAME NOTES: North Dakota will close out a two-game homestand at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on Saturday afternoon when they take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in non-conference action.
After opening the season with losses in four of its first five games, SDSU has been on the upswing of late by going 5-3 in its last eight to climb to 6-7 on the campaign. The Jackrabbits have won back-to-back games over Belmont (85-72) and Wayne State (75-56), but they are still winless in five true road games this season.
North Dakota has been sluggish to start the season, registering just three wins in its first nine games, although it has performed well in Grand Forks with victories in all three of its home games. It most recently hosted Presentation College on Sunday afternoon and came away with an easy 78-32 triumph.
These programs have become well-acquainted over the years, with North Dakota leading the all-time series, 104-80. SDSU won last season's matchup at home, 71-70, on a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
SDSU had no problem dismissing its inferior competition earlier in the week, as it outshot Wayne State from the field, 60 percent to 40.7 percent, en route to the 19-point victory. Jordan Dykstra was the spark plug in the victory, shooting 5-of-8 from the floor (including 3-of-5 from 3-point range) for 18 points to go with eight rebounds. Brayden Carlson made all five of his field goal attempts and all four free-throw tries for 16 points, while Cody Larson also netted 16.
It's no surprise that the Jackrabbits are hovering around .500 this season, as they score nearly the exact same amount of points (72.8 ppg) as they surrender (72.7 ppg). Dykstra puts up 16.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game to lead the team and dons impressive percentages from the field (.463), beyond the arc (.423) and the free-throw line (.808). Carlson (12.8 ppg) and Chad White (10.4 ppg) are also factors from long range, adding a combined 48 3-pointers, while Larson (12.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg) is an anchor in the paint.
North Dakota also had an easy matchup in its latest game, making light work of Presentation in a 46-point victory. The squad shot an impressive 50.8 percent from the floor, but the big story came on defense, where it held its NAIA opponent to just 9-of-62 shooting (.145) while forcing 17 turnovers. Troy Huff was a big factor on both ends of the floor, finishing with 19 points and five steals. Chad Calcaterra tallied a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Aaron Anderson netted 10 points.
Unfortunately for UND, it can't play programs like Presentation every game, as its defensive effort this season (.473 opponents' FG percentage for 77.0 ppg) has all but nullified its impressive work on offense (.450, 77.3 ppg). Huff has established himself as one of the Big Sky's best players, as he boasts 21.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. Anderson (12.4 ppg) and Nash (11.3 ppg) are both regular contributors who shoot greater than 51 percent from the field.
In a matchup between two inconsistent squads, North Dakota holds the advantage playing on its home floor, especially considering SDSU's inability to win on the road.
Game Date and Time