Purdue Fort Wayne coach Jon Coffman said his basketball team could probably come back from a 20-point deficit. But a team as good as South Dakota State was not the one to try it against.
The Mastodons (9-10, 2-2 Summit) got off to a disastrous start at the Coliseum on Saturday night, falling behind by 18 points in just over 10 minutes as Arctic-cold shooting carried over to the defensive end. They stanched the bleeding in the final few minutes of the first half and cut well into the Jackrabbits' lead in the second half, but never completely closed the gap as they fell 70-61.
“I'm disappointed in the first 4 to 8 minutes, how we attacked our gameplan, and South Dakota State, they made us play,” Coffman said. “In the nine years I've been here, we haven't had a lot of halves like that. And we've had a couple this year, when we don't execute well, and we try and do hero and heart plays, and that doesn't work. We work when we move the basketball and share the basketball.”
South Dakota State's David Wingett, a 6-foot-7 freshman guard, shot 3 for 3, picked up two rebounds and blocked a shot by PFW senior forward Matt Holba, all in the first four minutes of the game as the Jackrabbits took a 12-2 lead. Freshman guard Baylor Sheierman came off the bench and immediately added to the Mastodon's woes, dunking to put South Dakota State up by 12, and then responding to a 3-pointer by PFW's Brian Patrick with a trey of his own.
“We didn't get stops on the defensive end, and that leaked over onto the offensive side of the ball,” sophomore guard Jarred Godfrey said. “At the end of the day, we just weren't very good tonight.”
While the Jackrabbits (13-7, 4-1 Summit) shot 17-27 in the first half (including 5 of 8 from 3-point land), the Mastodons shot 20% from the floor and just 2-16 from 3. Long attempts from 3 clanked off the backboard, and seemingly easy layups rolled around the rim and back out again.
The Mastodons slowly chipped away at the lead in the second half. After being outscored in the paint 20-6 in the first half, PFW started finishing at the basket, and outscored the Jackrabbits 20-12 by that same metric in the second half.
“We were letting the ball in the post too easily in the first half, which put us in our traps too much, and they did a good job attacking that,” Coffman said. “We were slow-moving in the first half. Our rotations weren't good. Honestly, we played eight minutes of really, really poor defense. ... If you don't play hard - you could solve it all with that. We played harder in the second half.”
A 3-pointer by DeMierre Black with 4:38 to go cut the Jackrabbits lead to 8 points, and a jump shot by Godfrey sliced it to 6 points with 1:23 left on the clock.
But the Mastodons couldn't get any closer.
South Dakota State's Douglas Wilson, who came into the game as the Jackrabbits leading scorer with an average of 17.8 points per game, played just 24 minutes as he picked up a third foul early. He finished with 13 points and four rebounds.
“Wilson, who's playing like the best player in our league right now, we got him in foul trouble,” Coffman said. “The fortunate and unfortunate part is that we didn't play against him a whole bunch. He was on the bench, but we still lost the game by nine with him on the bench.”
In other silver linings, Coffman said he was encouraged that the Mastodons committed just six turnovers, a notable improvement from the 16 they made in the win over Western Illinois on Wednesday. The team also shot 13 of 14 from the foul line.
Patrick led the Dons with 16 points, while Godfrey and Black each scored 13.