No longer is South Dakota State the ball-screen focused group that played off the wizardry of eventual NBA draft pick Nate Wolters.
But that doesn’t mean the Jackrabbits are any easier to play against.
“They’re huge,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. “Just big across the board. They’re going to throw it inside and pound on you and see what you do against it.”
The Mavericks carry a three-game losing streak into Frost Arena for a 4 p.m. game Saturday. The skid includes road losses in their first two Summit League games, and preventing those streaks from continuing will be a tall task.
While Wolters, the former point guard, is averaging 5.9 points per game for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Jackrabbits still have 6-foot-8 senior forward Jordan Dykstra — a stretch 4 who is among the country’s career 3-point percentage leaders and is the Summit’s best rebounder — physical 6-6 wing Chad White and 6-5 Brayden Carlson, who has slid over and become SDSU’s primary ballhandler.
Jake Bittle, 6-4, has moved into the starting lineup.
And so has South Dakota native Cody Larson, 6-9 and 235, who was granted immediate eligibility after transferring home from Florida.
“Larson is really good around the rim,” Hansen said. “He’s long, rebounds well and shoots it out to 10 to 12 feet. We have to do our work early (in the defensive possession) to not let him have position — or at least not let him have position where he wants it.”
Dykstra (7.9) and Larson (7.2) are the league’s top two rebounders. The Jackrabbits’ starting five is an average of three inches taller than UNO’s starting unit.
Dykstra, who had 14 points and 17 rebounds last year as the Jackrabbits completed a sweep of UNO at Ralston Arena, is second in the league in scoring (16.8) and shoots 42.7 percent (32 of 75) from 3. Larson averages 13.6 points. Carlson shoots 40.2 percent (35 of 87) from 3.
South Dakota State (10-8, 2-1 Summit) started the season 0-3 with losses to San Diego, Loyola Marymount and Montana. Its other losses include Texas Tech, UC Santa Barbara, Stanford and Minnesota.
Last year, the Jackrabbits had a 30-point first-half lead in beating UNO 78-63 in Brookings, and led by 20 in the first half of the 100-82 win at Ralston Arena.
Saturday’s game completes the Mavs’ league-opening, three-game road trip against the top three teams in the Summit from last season.
UNO (10-7, 0-2) squandered a 12-point, second-half lead before losing in overtime to Western Illinois last week, then dropped a 91-69 decision at league favorite North Dakota State on Thursday.
The Mavs fell behind the Bison 10-2, then missed their first seven shots from the field to open the second half as North Dakota State extended its lead from 41-31 to 49-32.
“You always want to get that first league win and get it out of the way,” Hansen said. “But I really want us to compete better and play better, then the rest of it sorts itself out.
“We have to compete better. We didn’t compete as well (Thursday) as we have, and that’s not what we’ve been about. We’ve always fought, and I’m not sure we did.”