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Jackrabbits Have Confidence Back, New Goals, As They Host Creighton in WNIT

They are only separated by a three-and-a-half hour drive on Interstate 29, but over the years South Dakota State and Creighton have only played each other five times in women’s basketball – twice in the 1980′s and three times since the Jackrabbits moved to Division I in 2004, including a meeting this season back in November.

One thing all five of those previous meetings have in common – the winning team.

The Bluejays bring that five-game winning streak over SDSU to Frost Arena Sunday afternoon for a WNIT second round game, in a building where they bounced the Jacks in the first round of the WNIT in 2008.

Both teams had impressive opening round wins at home Thursday night.

South Dakota State bounced back from the disappointment of a semifinal loss in the Summit League Tournament to South Dakota and being passed over for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, to thump Butler 78-61, in a game they led by as many as 26.

Head coach Aaron Johnston told me he was pleased with the way his team came out ready to play against the Bulldogs.

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The Jackrabbits (23-9) ran their home winning streak to 18 games thanks four players in double figures, including a double-double from Mariah Clarin (14 points/12 rebounds), 14 from Steph Paluch, including a half-court buzzer beater at halftime, 11 from Megan Waytashek, all in the second half, and 13 from freshman Chynna Stevens, who’s nine straight points late in the first half turned a one-point game into an 11-point SDSU advantage at the break.

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Thursday’s performance was a real boost to a team that was admittedly shell shocked after not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years.

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Creighton (20-13) used a big second half in their opening round WNIT win at home over Missouri, outscoring the Tigers 46-19 in the second 20 minutes to win 77-51.

The Bluejays were paced by the two players that have been leading them all year, Marissa Janning (19 points), the leading scorer in the Big East Conference, and Sarah Nelson (18 points/11 rebounds), who combined for 14-for-26 shooting (54%) and 37 of Creighton’s 77 points.

Creighton shot 65 percent in the second half and controlled the game close to the basket, scoring 40 of their 77 points in the paint.  The Bluejays were very effective in shutting down Missouri from long range limiting the Tigers to 4-for-23 shooting from behind the 3-point arc.

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In the Bluejays 68-63 win over the Jackrabbits in Omaha in November, Janning (20) and Nelson (16) combined for more than half of the Creighton offense, but needed a 3-pointer from Janning with 47 seconds left to give them the lead for good.

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Now after winning in the post season for the first time since 2009, the SDSU coaching staff is trying to get the players to buy in to the idea that they have a chance to go deep into this tournament and do things no other team has done in the Division I era in Brookings.

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Tipoff is 2:00pm Sunday at Frost Arena.  The winner advances to play the Minnesota – SMU winner in round three.

SOUTH DAKOTA GETS READY FOR STANFORD AT NCAA TOURNAMENT

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