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Jackrabbits Play Waiting Game in WNIT Final Four

They’ve never been this far before and they have no idea where they’re going.

That is the current state of South Dakota State basketball.

The Jackrabbits are in the WNIT Final Four for the first time ever after Sunday’s 76-64 win over Indiana in Brookings, but they’ll have to wait until Monday night to find out who their semifinal opponent will be and where and when that game will be played.  UTEP hosts Washington Monday night for the right to play SDSU later in the week.

This year’s Jackrabbit squad has now officially gone farther than another other SDSU team in the Division I era, with four post season wins.

Indiana at South Dakota State Women's Basketball
BROOKINGS, SD – MARCH 30: Steph Paluch #15 from South Dakota State University looks takes the ball to the basket against Taylor Agler #10 from Indiana University in the second half of their WNIT quarterfinal game Sunday afternoon at Frost Arena in Brookings. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

The victory against the Hoosiers at Frost Arena Sunday afternoon, started with a pair of 3-pointers early for the Jackrabbits, who had their best shooting game of the post season so far, hitting 47 percent from the field, after failing to hit the 40 percent mark in the three previous games.

Head coach Aaron Johnston told me the long range shooting helped his team keep pace with Indiana:

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Indiana at South Dakota State Women's Basketball
BROOKINGS, SD – MARCH 30: Head coach Curt Miller from Indiana University discuss his recent technical foul with an official in the first half of their WNIT quarterfinal game against South Dakota State University Sunday afternoon at Frost Arena in Brookings. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

SDSU got its first real separation from Indiana about 11:30 into the first half when they quickly turned a three point advantage into a nine point lead when Hoosiers’ head coach Curt Miller picked up a technical foul.  Coach Johnston says his team did a nice job converting on the opportunity:

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Almost as quickly as the Jackrabbits opened up a nine point cushion, Indiana came roaring back with 10 straight points to take a 26-25 lead with 4:45 left in the half, as SDSU went through a stretch of turnovers and cold shooting:

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Indiana at South Dakota State Women's Basketball
BROOKINGS, SD – MARCH 30: Gabby Boever #4 and Megan Waytashek #24 from South Dakota State University apply pressure as Alexis Gassion #23 from Indiana University passes the ball in the first half of their WNIT quarterfinal game Sunday afternoon at Frost Arena in Brookings. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

South Dakota State did re-take the lead on the strength of a 6-0 run and solid post defense, with five first half blocked shots and a plus-four advantage on the boards in the first 20 minutes:

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After trailing by seven at halftime, Indiana did cut the SDSU lead to three with 7:30 to play, but timely Jackrabbit shooting and an intense Frost Arena crowd of 3,792 seemed to rattle the Hoosiers, who turned it over 15 times:

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With the game one the line, South Dakota State took care of business at the free throw line, going 13-for-14 in the second half, 20-for-22 in the game, outscoring Indiana by 12 at the charity stripe:

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While celebrating unprecedented Division I post season success, coach Johnston says he also wants to use this deep post season run as a teaching moment for his players on how to win games when so much is at stake:

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So now the Jacks await either UTEP or Washington in the semifinals later this week.  With no opponent, and no idea of where or when that game will be played, coach Johnston decided to switch up the routine a bit and give his team Monday off.

But whether it’s the Miners or Huskies, coach Johnston the approach will be the same:

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As this year’s Jackrabbit team continues to make history with each win, coach Johnston says he’s trying to find a balance between the excitement of the moment and trying to maintain an even keel approach:

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South Florida awaits either Bowling Green or Rutgers in the other Final Four match-up this week.  The title game is Saturday, April 5th at 2:00pm CDT on CBS Sports Network.

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