INDIANAPOLIS – After dropping their last three games in Summit League play, the Jaguars got back on track against the top team in the league on Wednesday night (Feb. 1). An 86-81 overtime victory over North Dakota State improved the IUPUI’s record in conference play to 4-6, and handed the Bison just their second loss in Summit League play.

“I think it’s a great win because they’re a very good team. At this moment they’re the best team in the league, but I was very pleased with how we came out, stuck with it, and competed all night to get a win,” Head Coach Jason Gardner said. 


IUPUI (10-14, 4-6 Summit) came out swinging from the first bell and jumped out to an early 18-6 lead in the opening six-plus minutes. The Jaguars’ offense was firing on all cylinders in the first half and they took a 42-35 lead into the locker room at the break. Senior Matt O’Leary came out scorching the opposition and poured in 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half.


“It feels good to get comfortable,” O’Leary said. “I haven’t played me best the past few games, so once I got off to a good start I knew I was going to have a good game.”


“Anytime you can get a lead early on, that builds confidence,” Gardner said of his team’s hot start. “They’re a good team so we knew a run was coming, but the hot start was huge for us.”


North Dakota State (15-7, 7-2 Summit) battled back in the second half and eventually took a 54-51 lead at the 11:53 mark. That lead stretched to a 58-51 margin as the Bison reeled off seven straight points. However, the Jaguars quickly answered with bench fueled 12-2 run behind buckets from Ron Patterson, Josh James and T.J. Henderson. The teams traded scores until the closing minute when a Darell Combs jumper put the Jags up 72-70 with 30.4 seconds to go. The Bison answered quickly with a Tyson Ward dunk and Patterson’s attempt at the buzzer fell short to send the game to overtime.


In the extra period, the Jags’ frontcourt duo of Aaron Brennan and O’Leary stepped up and hit huge shots. O’Leary opened up the scoring with a three and added a baby hook shot shortly after to cap off a 9-of-17 shooting performance.


Brennan, who was making his first start of the year in place of Evan Hall, responded with a career-high 18 points and eight boards in 32 minutes. He hit a three from the corner with 1:45 to go to give the Jags a 3-point lead and later swished two huge free throws with 24.5 seconds remaining to keep the lead at three.


“He played well. He got some big rebounds for us, made some clutch free throws. When we needed a bucket it seemed like he was the guy that would get the ball and make plays,” Gardner said of his junior forward. “Having guys like Aaron, guys that will step up when called upon – that’s what makes a great program.”


“The coaches want me to be aggressive, and so do my teammates. When I get the ball, I just need to make shots, and the guards make it easy,” Brennan said with a smile spread across his face. “Being out there with my teammates, you just like making plays like that. It’s something I’ve been working on, so I just stepped up and hit shots.”


While O’Leary and Brennan paced the offense, they also shared the duties of battling the bulky Dexter Werner in the post all night.


“Without Evan, AB (Aaron Brennan) and I knew we were going to have to step up and take on the challenge,” O’Leary said.


Patterson (13 points), Henderson (11) and Combs (10) all finished in double-digits while Ward led four NDSU players in double-figures with a career-high 22 points. Junior Paul Miller added 20 points and four boards and Warner had 18 points and eight rebounds off the NDSU bench. The Jags shot 33-of-67 (49.3%) from the floor and knocked in 14-of-24 (58.3%) from distance. Despite the strong offensive showing, Coach Gardner believes that the defensive performance sealed the win in the end.


“I thought they were locked in a majority of the game, and overall we were flying around a lot more than normal. The guys did a great job of rotating, fighting through screens, talking to help each other out, we got the stops we needed down the stretch,” Gardner said.

The Jags limited NDSU to 44.6 percent shooting, snapping a long streak of foes shooting better than 50 percent. 


The Jaguars will have a week to regroup before they travel to Omaha on Wednesday, Feb. 8 in hopes of avenging an early season loss to the Mavericks. That game will be heard on 97.5 Fox Sports FM, 1260 WNDE and the iHeartRadio app as Morgan Adcock (pxp) is on the call. 

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