VERMILLION, S.D. – Two days after playing for first place in the Summit League, IUPUI had a chance to redeem themselves. Up seven points with under seven minutes to go, everything came undone. IUPUI went scoreless for almost four minutes and didn’t make a shot in the final six minutes while fouling seven times and turning the ball over five times. South Dakota used a 22-4 run over the final 6:03 to defeat IUPUI 85-74.
Darell Combs had a big afternoon with 27 points and five rebounds, but also had a big part in the late collapse. Despite scoring to put IUPUI up 70-63 late, he went 0-for-4 from that point on with three fouls and a turnover. Matt O’Leary finished with 14 points and seven rebounds and Evan Hall added 11 points and four rebounds.
The game was tight nearly the entire way, although IUPUI held the lead for most of the second half. Hall scored on their opening possession of the half to tie the game and O’Leary hit a three-point basket after a South Dakota turnover on the next possession. South Dakota eventually tied the game back up at 63 with a free throw after the eight-minute T.V. timeout, but IUPUI responded with seven straight points, all from Combs. He hit a 3-pointer with 6:50 left in the game to go up 68-63 and a got a layup in transition on the next possession after a turnover.
Then IUPUI lost their way, to put it mildly. The South Dakota defense swarmed Combs and the offense stagnated. IUPUI missed their next two shot attempts, the latter at the 4:58 mark, and wouldn’t attempt another shot for over four minutes. Twice they got to the free-throw line where they converted both attempts, but otherwise they turned the ball over every possession during that stretch.
It would be easy to say that IUPUI just stopped making shots. A couple of their looks were even pretty good; O’Leary missed an open 3-pointer and Combs’s transition layup was blocked from behind. But by-and-large IUPUI couldn’t handle South Dakota’s defensive pressure. That pressure caused bad passes and dribbling errors that led to transition layups and fouls. In a game with relatively few possessions, those fast breaks made all the difference. South Dakota turned the ball over 12 times leading to 20 points for IUPUI. On the flip side, they scored 31 points off 17 IUPUI turnovers.
Coaches don’t like to talk about mistakes at the end of a game costing their team and will often reference a team’s poor free throw shooting throughout or missed opportunities earlier, but there’s really not much to explain IUPUI’s loss other than their lapse at the end. Up until the final stretch they were out-shooting South Dakota 54 percent to 53 percent. They were nearly even in rebounding and had one of their best games at the free-throw line. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they allowed South Dakota to shoot 6-for-8 in the final stretch and get to the line 13 times while committing five turnovers and missing all seven of their shots.
IUPUI will have to sit on this one for a few days. Their next opportunity won’t come until Wednesday, but it will be at home where IUPUI hasn’t lost all year. They’ll host Omaha at 7:00 p.m.