BROOKINGS, S.D. - South Dakota State topped the Fighting Leathernecks 64-55 Saturday evening (Feb. 16) in a hard-fought Summit League battle inside the Jackrabbits home, Frost Arena.
SDSU improved to 21-7 overall, and takes over first place in the Summit League with a 12-3 conference record. The win marked the Jackrabbits' 30th consecutive win at home.
The Leathernecks now sit in second place in the league's standings with an 11-3 conference record. Western is 19-6 overall.
Ceola Clark III scored a team-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, 4-of-8 from three, and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. He also dished out a team-best four assists, grabbed four rebounds, and had one block in 37 minutes played.
The only other Leatherneck to score in double figures was Adam Link who tallied 12 on 6-of-10 shooting. Link also had five boards, one assist and one block.
Leatherneck center Terell Parks finished with a team-high eight rebounds to go along with his nine points, three assists, one block.
SDSU's Nate Wolters led all scorers with 28 points. He also had six points and three steals. Jordan Dykstra (12) and Brayden Carlson (11) also finished the game with more than 10 points.
Western shot better from the field than SDSU, 50%-41.8%, but the Jackrabbits were more successful from both the free throw line (69.2%-27.3%) and beyond the arc (54.5%-50%).
The Leathernecks had one more assist (13-12), one more block (4-3), four more turnovers (10-6), four less steals (2-6), four more fouls (15-11), and six less rebounds (34-28).
Western Illinois was the first team to score, and after the scoreless opening two minutes, found themselves quickly up 4-0.
Just more than four minutes into the game, SDSU's Dykstra hit a three for the Jackrabbits first points of the game, making it 4-3 Leathernecks.
South Dakota State then rattled off a 10-0 run until Clark nailed his first of three first-half triples at the 11:58 mark.
The Jackrabbits continued to outscore the Leathernecks, building their lead to 19-7 thanks to a 19-3 run that lasted from SDSU's first points until the 4:57 mark of the half.
Western, however, would answer by outscoring SDSU 12-6 during the final five minutes of the first half, and found themselves down only six at the break, 25-19.
The Leathernecks' run continued to into the start of the second, kicking off the second period on a 8-2 run, eventually tying the game at 27-all.
After SDSU's Wolters and WIU's Houpt exchanged three-pointers, a Parks free throw would give the Leathernecks the lead back, 31-30 with just under 16 minutes to play in regulation.
The contest went back-and-forth for the next six minutes until SDSU’s Wolters scored five straight points, making it 40-35 in favor of the Jackrabbits with just over 10 minutes to play in the game.
With 7:30 to play in the game, SDSU was able to build its lead back up to as large as 10 points, 47-37.
Jordan Foster ended the Jackrabbits' 12-2 run with his first points of the game, a three-pointer at the 7:14 mark, and after SDSU jumped back up seven, Clark hit a three and Link connected on a layup to cut Western's deficit to two points, 49-47, with just over four minutes to play.
That would be as close as the Leathernecks would get, though, as SDSU was able to pull away to a nine-point conference victory.
Western concludes its regular season with a three-game homestand beginning next Saturday when they play host to Cleveland State in the BracketBusters event.