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Kevin Schnepf, Published January 26 2013

Schnepf: Jackrabbits continue home success against Bison

Brookings, S.D. - It was 39 years ago almost to the day when South Dakota State played its first men’s basketball game in Frost Arena. The Jackrabbits lost that game 100-95 over North Dakota State.

Saturday, before a sellout crowd of 6,063, NDSU became the 449th victim at Frost – the best basketball venue by far in the Summit League.

The Jackrabbits’ 69-53 win was their 26th straight home win – one shy of a school record and a Summit League record.

It’s the third-longest home winning streak trailing only Syracuse (34) and Kansas (32).

“It’s a great environment, it’s loud,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “It seems like a pretty knowledgeable fan base, minus the few adjectives thrown at us from their students. But God bless them, they are having fun.”

Phillips’ Bison, playing their third straight road game without leading scorer Taylor Braun, were having fun for a while in the building named after Reuben B. Jack Frost – who was born in Sheyenne, N.D.

But after watching their 37-31 halftime lead disappear as quickly as Jackrabbit fans can blow the roof off of Frost Arena, the Bison found out how tough it is to win on the road, how tough it is to win on the road without your leading scorer and how tough it is to win on the road in Brookings.

“This place definitely gives us a lot of energy,” said senior point guard Nate Wolters, the only SDSU player to surpass 2,000 career points, making it 2,048 with his 26 points Saturday.

Not so much in the first half when the Bison repeatedly answered Jackrabbit runs, keeping their fans from erupting. Back-to-back slam dunks by TrayVonn Wright and Kory Brown ended one Jackrabbit spurt. A mixture of Mike Felt 3-pointers and Lawrence Alexander driving layups stopped other rallies.

But this is a place where SDSU has won 78 percent of its games since the 1973 game against the Bison. The fans were waiting for that game-winning spurt. So were the SDSU players.

“I think sometimes we do wait for that spurt,” Wolters said. “We finally gave our fans something to cheer about.”

For about a nine-minute stretch to be exact – when the Bison went scoreless for 12 straight possessions, sparking the Jacks to a 17-0 run. All of a sudden, the Jacks had a 50-40 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

It was just too much for the Bison to overcome.

“I know we are a mature enough of a team to overcome that but we had some slipups that we don’t normally make,” said Bison center Marshall Bjorklund. “You can’t do that on the road, especially against a team like that.”

That team is now back in the hunt for a Summit League championship with NDSU and Western Illinois. Phillips is right when he told the media after the game: “Anyone else get the feeling this might not be the last meeting between these two teams?”

At least for the Bison, they won’t have to play them in Frost Arena – where SDSU now sports an impressive 449-127 record.

Scott Nagy, SDSU’s head coach for the last 18 years, has seen this kind of home dominance before. From 2002 to 2004, his Jackrabbits posted a 27-game home winning streak.

“South Dakota State is such a great place, we’ve always had great fans,” Nagy said. “They want to see teams win. They are such a big part of it, they really are.”

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com