BROOKINGS, S.D. – All signs pointed up for IUPUI at the halfway mark against South Dakota State. The Jaguars held the Jackrabbits to 26 points while shooting just 37 percent themselves. But Mike Daum and company turned things around in the second half. They shot 60 percent from the floor while making all 16 of their free throws in a convincing 81-67 win over IUPUI.
Matt O’Leary came up big for the Jaguars against the best big man in the Summit League with his second double-double of the season and his second career 20-point double-double. He went 5-for-10 from deep on his way to 23 points and 10 rebounds. Darell Combs struggled in the first half with just three points, but went 4-for-8 in the second half and finished with 17 points.
Daum did what he does best though. The nation’s leader in free throws and second leading scorer finished with 26 points, including 12-for-12 shooting from the line, and nine rebounds. It’s a far cry from his 42-point double-double against Fort Wayne three weeks ago or his 38 points and 17 rebounds four games ago against Oral Roberts. But compared to his nine-point effort that included one free-throw attempt in their 85-83 overtime loss the last time these two teams played, it was enough to put the Jaguars away.
There wasn’t a major turning point for the Jackrabbits. Despite trailing by seven at the half, they methodically caught up and slowly built up their lead. By the 5:43 mark in the second half, their seven-point deficit turned into a seven-point advantage. O’Leary did his best to get IUPUI back within striking range. He hit a three-point basket with just over five minutes left, stole the ball on the next possession and then found Ron Patterson for a dunk, cutting the South Dakota State lead to two, 59-57 with 4:53 to go.
The IUPUI offense couldn’t keep any sort of rhythm though and that was the end of their push. Daum immediately answered with a bucket and then Reed Tellinghuisen scored back-to-back 3-pointers for South Dakota State to open up a nine-point lead. From that point on, just as they’d recovered from half-time and built up a lead in the second, they continued building their lead to their game-high lead 14 points at the buzzer.
It’s commendable how well IUPUI defended Daum in South Dakota State’s visit to Indianapolis last month. He averages just under 24 points and eight free-throw attemps per game, but finished with just nine points and one free-throw attempt. It was only his third time failing to hit double-figures this season. But to do that for a second time, and on the road, was too much to ask. Daum finished 12-for-12 from the line and the Jackrabbits finished 25-for-32 including 16-for-16 in the second half. In total, South Dakota State outscored IUPUI 55-34 in the second half, more than doubling their first-half point total.
What hurt IUPUI even more was their second-half offense. Despite shooting under 40 percent in the first half, IUPUI’s offense worsened in the second shooting just 36 percent with only three assists. One of their biggest strengths is their ability to shoot the 3-pointer at every position. With guys like O’Leary and Aaron Brennan, they can create match-up problems against teams with interior-focused big men. O’Leary did his part finishing 5-for-10 from long range, but the rest of the team shot under 20 percent while hoisting a season-high 32 attempts.
Now after such a promising stretch with wins at home against North Dakota State and on the road against Omaha, IUPUI faces the possibility of a third three-game losing streak this season. They’ll go on the road to face a Denver team that beat them at home in January 78-74. Their game will tip Sunday afternoon at 3:30.