After a disappointing loss to Hofstra on Friday night, South Dakota State returned to the Mack Sports Complex to face Marshall on Saturday.
The Jackrabbits led by as many as eight points in the first half, but a 21-12 run by Marshall over the final six minutes gave the Thundering Herd a one-point advantage at the break.
The teams then traded buckets for the entire second half, with neither taking more than a five-point lead.
Marshall appeared to have the game in hand after D.D. Scarver's three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining gave the Thundering Herd a 77-72 lead.
But after a timeout, South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy designed a play to get junior shooting guard Brayden Carlson open for a left-corner three-pointer, which he drilled in with 11.9 seconds to play.
After the Jackrabbits intentionally fouled him, Marshall guard Chris Martin missed the front end of a one-and-one, leaving the door open for South Dakota State to either tie with a two-pointer or win with a three.
Senior point guard Nate Wolters, who was the only player in Division I last year to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, got the rebound and ran the ball up the floor. When he got to the top of the key, he dished to junior Chad White on the right wing.
White, who already made a three-pointer in the first half, buried the trey with 2.1 seconds to play, putting the Jackrabbits ahead, 78-77.
Marshall had a final opportunity, but DeAndre Kane's desperation half-court heave rimmed out.
After the way the Jackrabbits competed with Marshall, one of the favorites in Conference USA, on Saturday it was difficult to believe that this same team lost to Hofstra, which fell to Monmouth by 29 points earlier this season, only 24 hours before.
Wolters once again proved that he is among the best point guards in Division I.
He broke down the Thundering Herd's defense time and time again as he posted his second double-double of the season with 22 points, six rebounds and 10 assists.
The major worry for the Jackrabbits in the preseason was how much they would miss Griffin Callahan, who started at shooting guard last year but had graduated.
Carlson, who had a solid sophomore year, would need to step into Callahan's role in order for the Jackrabbits to return to the NCAA tournament. Through the first three games, he averaged only eight points. But on Saturday, he had a coming out party with a career-high 23 points in addition to four assists and three rebounds. He made 7-of-11 shots from the field and was the team's driving force in the first half.
Also, the Jackrabbits won this game with very little frontcourt production.
Senior Tony Fiegen spent most of the game in foul trouble, totaling only two points and one rebound in 13 minutes.
Junior Jordan Dykstra, who came into the contest averaging 13.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, posted only three points and five rebounds.
For Marshall, Kane and Elijah Pittman were easily the most impressive players on the floor. Kane led the Thundering Herd with 19 points and eight assists, and Pittman notched a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Kane got off to a slow start, scoring only two points over the first 15 minutes. But once he got in a groove, Marshall clearly became a much better team.
At 6'4", Kane is an amazingly versatile player. Throughout the game, he would switch from running the point to playing off-ball guard to posting up larger players like Fiegen, Dykstra and Marcus Heemstra. He also showed off his shooting range with a pair of NBA-range triples.
Pittman appeared to be the most athletic player on the floor. Every time a shot went up, he was crashing the glass. Seven of his points came after he grabbed an offensive board.
In a scary moment late in the game, Pittman went to the floor after a hard screen and did not get up at first. But after a few minutes, he was able to walk off the court under his own power.
In this hard-fought battle, both South Dakota State and Marshall showed the potential to win their respective leagues and advance to the NCAA tournament. And with players like Wolters and Kane leading the way, they could bust a few brackets in March.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!