Four of the five Jackrabbit starters scored in double figures and the other pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds in South Dakota State's 78-69 win over Denver on Thursday at Frost Arena.
The Jackrabbits improve to 17-11 overall and to 9-4 in The Summit League, which guarantees them at least a three seed in next week's Summit League Championships in Sioux Falls. Denver falls to 15-13 overall and to 8-5 in league play.
"The stats that we had to win were the rebounds, the free throws and be even on the assists and on the turnovers, which we were pretty close, and we did," head coach Scott Nagy said. "They're hard to play, they really are, and I was frustrated because we held them to 37 percent shooting in the first half and were only up two, and I thought that was a problem, because I knew they weren't going to shoot that in the second half, but we didn't either."
The Jackrabbits finished with a 38-25 advantage in rebounds and shot 32 free throws compared to just eight for the Pioneers. SDSU finished with an 18-13 edge on assists and committed 14 turnovers to 11 for Denver.
SDSU shot an even 37 percent in the first half on 10 of 27 shooting, and held Denver to 36.7 percent in the half on 11 of 30 shooting, but both teams kicked it up a notch in the second half. The Jacks shot 61 percent in the final 20 minutes on 14 of 23 shooting, while the Pioneers went 17 of 30, 56.7 percent.
After a cold start by both teams, the Jacks took an early 7-2 lead, and led 9-4 when Denver came back to tie the game at 9-all, before taking a 14-12 lead with 10 minutes, 17 seconds left in the first half, the second of three lead changes in the game, all in the first half.
SDSU regained the lead on a pair of Cody Larson free throws with 7:14 in the first half and never trailed again.
Up 29-27 at the half, the Jacks led 41-31 less than five minutes into the second half, but Denver used a 10-0 run to force the last of six ties in the game.
A Jordan Dykstra layup broke the tie and spurred a 9-2 Jackrabbit run that put them up by seven at 50-43 midway through the half.
The Pioneers would cut the lead to as few as two points two more times, but the Jacks slowly pulled away down the stretch to secure the win.
Brayden Carlson led all players in the game with 22 points. Dykstra added 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds, which gives him 807 rebounds for his career, making him just the third Jackrabbit in history with at least 1,500 career points and 800 career rebounds, the first to do it at the Division I level.
Cody Larson finished with 16 points and Chad White 11 points, while Jake Bittle grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to go with his eight points.
Jalen Love led a pair of Pioneers in double figures with 18 points, with Marcus Byrd adding 10 points off the bench in the loss.
The Jacks close the regular season, and recognize their four seniors on Saturday against South Dakota in the South Dakota Corn Showdown Series at Frost Arena at 4 p.m., with senior night festivities scheduled to begin immediately following the game.
NOTES: The Jackrabbits lead the all-time series with Denver 6-4 ... the teams played in front of 2,743 fans at Frost Arena ... SDSU improves to 12-1 when leading at the half, to 17-3 when out-rebounding their opponent and to 13-1 when holding a team to fewer than 70 points ... Carlson scored at least 20 points for the eighth time this season and for the 10th time in his career ... Carlson also moved form 36th on the all-time scoring list at SDSU to 34th with 1,076 career points ... Dykstra moved from sixth all-time in career rebounds to fifth with 807 and joins Mark Tezlaff and Lee Colburn as the only three Jackrabbits with at least 1,500 career points and 800 career rebounds ... Dykstra needs four rebounds to move into fourth all-time in rebounding at SDSU ... Bittle's 11 rebounds tops his previous career-high of 10 rebounds, set on Feb. 13, 2013 at Omaha