Slow second half ends men’s basketball season

Jack’s career-high 31 not enough as WSC falls in NSIC Tournament opener

Shawn Henley, Staff Writer

The Wayne State College Wildcats, led by a career-high 31 points from sophomore guard Kendall Jacks, suffered a 92-78 loss against St. Cloud State last Wednesday in the first round of the NSIC Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“I thought our guys prepared and competed really well,” Head Coach Jeff Kaminsky said. “I think it was a real testament to continue to get better as the year went on.”
SCSU improved to 19-13 overall while the ‘Cats finished the season 10-19, an improvement from last year’s 5-24 record.
The Wildcats trailed early, 10-6, but then went on a 13-0 run over a four-minute span to go up 19-10. At the 5:24 mark of the first half, the Wildcats had a three-point lead.
With 2:14 left in the first half, sophomore guard Vance Janssen hit a 3-pointer, giving the Wildcats a 12-point lead, 40-28. The Huskies scored the final seven points of the first half, and WSC went into the locker room with a 40-35 advantage.
“We didn’t have a great end to the first half,” Kaminsky said. “We made a few physical and mental mistakes and allowed them to get back in the game. We wanted to continue going at them inside. I thought we really established control of the inside game early and we didn’t want to let go of that.”
WSC led the second half until the 11:03 mark, as Scottie Stone nailed a three-pointer to knot up the game at 55. The Huskies went off in the second half, going 20-30 shooting.The Stone shot marked the last time WSC had the lead in the game.
The Wildcats kept the game close for a bit, getting to within one point, 64-63, on Jacks’ layup. But right after the score, the Huskies made five shots in a row and slowly pulled away with the 92-78 victory.
“We had a few defensive lapses in the second half and didn’t respond well,” Assistant Coach Nathan Stover said. “It was some of the little things like those that affected us.”
WSC went 31-61 shooting, going 8-18 from 3-point range and 8-12 from the line. Jacks led all scorers with 31 points on 12 of 20 shooting. Junior guard Matt Thomas had 17 points, followed by junior guard Austin Esters with 10 and Janssen with 8.
“They had really balanced scoring,” Stover said. “I felt like we were able to guard everything when we played them before, so we ended up struggling.”
SCSU had six scorers in double digits, as Jon Averkamp and Mark Hall each had 19 points, followed by Stone with 18, Gage Davis (14), Andy Foley (12) and Brindley Theisen (10).
“They’re a pretty talented group of players,” Kaminsky said. “At the end of the day, they had guys step up and make plays.”
For his efforts throughout the entire season, Jacks was awarded with second-team All-NSIC honors, becoming the first Wildcat men’s player since Amry Shelby in 2012-2013 to earn the honor.
Jacks, a 6-4 sophomore from Bettendorf, Iowa, led the Wildcats in scoring this season, averaging just over 16 points per game. He scored in double figures in the final 21 games of the season and had 10 or more points in 27 of 29 games played.
In all but one of 11 conference away games the Wildcats had the lead at some point in the second half, and they won six games on the road. Last season, the Wildcats went 0-14 away from Rice Auditorium.
With improvements like this, it shows that the Wildcats’ overall record of 10-19 could have very easily been flip-flopped.
“I think we made a lot of progress,” Kaminsky said. “I felt like they had a great approach from day one when I took over the program and I couldn’t be more proud of the group that I had the opportunity to coach this year.”
As with any sport, basketball is the epitome of complete team effort, and the Wildcats showed a vast amount of improvement by doubling the number of wins from last year in Kaminsky’s first season.
“There is still a lot to improve on,” Stover said. “From what I gathered from the players, there is a general excitement and passion for getting better.”
The Wildcats finished sixth in the NSIC South Division, going 8-14 in league play. Kaminsky and his staff have no graduating seniors and will be returning all players next season.