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Jackson catapults Blue Hawks over Waldorf

Dickinson State junior guard Kenny Jackson pulls up for a 3-pointer in action against Waldorf (Iowa) on Friday, Jan. 11, at Scott Gym. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Dickinson State junior guard Donte Walker puts pressure on a Waldorf player on Friday, Jan. 11, at Scott Gym. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

Friday night featured 24 points for No. 24, Kenny Jackson.

Halfway through the first half, the Dickinson State junior guard took the ball from an unaware Waldorf University (Iowa) player, then advanced up the floor with a Warrior in pursuit. The already exuberant crowd cheered louder as the ref whistled for a defensive foul as the ball fell through the net. Jackson completed the three-point play from the foul line, putting the Blue Hawks up 28-14.

The junior guard led all players in scoring as his team picked up an 87-69 win over Waldorf on Friday, Jan. 11, at Scott Gym.

"Kenny responded tonight. He did not have a good game against Dakota State (S.D.), our last conference game. He underperformed, and tonight he responded and had a really good game," Dickinson State head coach Josh Vaughan said. "That's more of what we're expecting from Kenny. ... Not just the shooting, but just the overall engagement on defense, the talking. Obviously, it's good to make shots, but for Kenny the other stuff is more important for him and us."

Scoring 13 of his points in the first half, Jackson was the centerpiece of a smooth-moving Blue Hawks offense. A few passes around the circle almost always managed to free someone up, such as sophomore guard Travon Hamilton, who then proceeded to dash inside. If the Warrior defense collapsed in, the Blue Hawks would kick the ball back outside.

This routine earned Hamilton 10 points and six assists. Junior guard Donte Walker, who spent over 30 minutes on the floor, plays similarly, excelling at finding an opening to work his way to the basket, or passing it back to a teammate, even if he's in mid-jump. Walker put up nine points of his own while earning three assists.

"When you get some layups, you see the ball go in, ... which made our threes easier," Vaughan said. "We shared the ball well. I think we had 11 assists in the first half. When you share the ball, and trust each other and get open looks for everybody, it's more fun and you're able to make more shots."

Aided by the work of Hamilton and Walker, junior guard / forward Malcohm Hill went 2-for-2 from behind the three-point line and Jackson sunk four of his six 3-pointer attempts.

Thanks to 64.5 percent shooting, Dickinson State led 48-30 at the break.

"We had good passing. My teammate, Donte, he was finding me," Jackson said. "During practice, we just worked on shooting, got in extra gym time and I think that carried over into the game."

The teams amassed an even 39 points each in the second half, but the Waldorf defense simply couldn't figure out Dickinson State enough to claw back into the game.

"Defensively, we have a lot of work to do," Waldorf head coach Nigel Jenkins said. "Which is surprising, considering for the most part we've been able to hold conference opponents to 70, 72, 73 points per game. Tonight, we didn't have it. We just didn't guard the ball. DSU, they just attacked the heck out of us. We didn't go out very well and they made us play."

Meanwhile, the Dickinson State defense limited the Warriors to 43.3 percent shooting in the first half.

Later in the night, with a comfortable advantage, the Blue Hawks started to slip up, allowing scoring threats in Brady Kuchinka and Demitrius Martin to breakout. Martin netted 11 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. Kuchinka finished with 18, also putting up 11 in the final half.

The junior guards are two of three Warrior players that average about 15 points per game, including sophomore Brian Smith, who scored 11.

"Going into the game, our main thing was stopping those three guys," Jackson said. "I think we did a good job in the first half, but in the second half they hit a couple wide open threes. .. I guess we got a little complacent. When you're up 20, every team does that. I'm glad we finished out."

Aside from the late lapse, Vaughan said he hopes his team carries something into Saturday's conference game against Viterbo University (Wis.) The Blue Hawks have yet to win back-to-back games this year, bobbing between wins and losses over the last eight games.

"We haven't responded on a back-to-back night. Whenever we've won on a Friday, or Thursday, the next night we played, we haven't played well, at all," Vaughan said. "We got to show up tomorrow the same with everything we had today. If we do that, we'll have a good chance."

Dickinson State 87, Waldorf University 69

WU (5-12, 1-3 NSAA): Demitrius Martin 20, Brady Kuchinka 18, Brian Smith 11, Quincy Minor 7.

DSU (6-9, 2-2 NSAA): Kenny Jackson 24, Melvin Collins 15, Michael Vandall 13, Travon Hamilton 10, Donte Walker 9, Malcohm Hill 6, Ethan Caton 5, Austin Payne 3, Shawn Stoltz 2.

Halftime: DSU 48, WU 30. Total fouls: WU 8, DSU 15. Technical fouls: Waldorf. 3-point goals: WU 4-11 (Kuchinka 2-4), DSU 12-21 (Jackson 4-6). Rebounds: WU 27 (Martin 5), DSU 36 (Collins, Vandall 8). Assists: WU 10 (Smith 4), DSU 22 (Hamilton 6). Steals: WU 6 (Kuchinka 6), DSU 5 (Jackson 2). Blocks: WU 6 (Khalid Manney 2), DSU 2 (Payne). Turnovers: WU 10, DSU 11.