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Summit League Preview: South Dakota State Women at Western Illinois, Fort Wayne

University of Nebraska Omaha at South Dakota State University Women's Basketball
Dave Eggen/Inertia

For the second time in less than two weeks, the South Dakota State women’s basketball team is gearing up for a battle between first place teams in the Summit League.

The Jackrabbits (19-6/10-3) travel to Western Illinois, Wednesday (February 15), where the winner takes over sole possession of the top spot in the conference, with less the Summit League Tournament just a little more than two weeks away.

The Leathernecks (20-6/10-3) are the hottest team in the conference right now, winners of five straight, nine of their last 11 overall.

Western is the number one scoring team in the Summit and features three of the conference’s top five scorers, junior guards Morgan Blumer and Emily Clemens, and sophomore guard Taylor Higginbotham. The trio combines for 54 points per game, which is nearly 70 percent of the Leathernecks offense.

WIU also leads the league in assists and offensive rebounds.

South Dakota State won the first meeting 73-58, thanks to a strong defensive effort that shut down the Leathernecks multifaceted attack. Clemens was 6-of-18 against the Jackrabbits in game one, but the rest of Western’s starters were a combined 8-of-34. WIU was just 5-of-23 from behind the three-point line.

Kerri Young had 10 first quarter points in that game, keying an 18-0 run. Madison Guebert scored 12 pointds in the third quarter. Both finished with 18 points.

Tipoff is 7:00 PM, Wednesday in Macomb. A win would give South Dakota State its sixth straight 20-win season.

The Jackrabbits travel to Fort Wayne, Saturday (February 18).

The Mastodons (5-20/2-10) are dead last in the conference and are in danger of missing the Summit League Tournament. Both of their conference wins have come at home, most recently a four-point victory over North Dakota State, last Saturday (February 11).

Sophomore De’Jour Young and senior Rachel Rinehart both score in double figures on average. Young had reached double figures in eight of the nine games since the Mastodons last played SDSU. Rinehart was 5-of-5 shooting against NDSU last weekend. She’s third in the league in steals.

The Jackrabbits won the first meeting, 73-51, after outscoring Fort Wayne 42-28 in the second and third quarters and holding the Mastodons to just six points in the fourth.

South Dakota State shot 56 percent for the game. Ellie Thompson (8-of-8) and Guebert (6-of-9) led the attack with 19 points each.

Tipoff is 3:00 PM, Saturday in Fort Wayne.

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Last week, the Jackrabbits won their eighth straight home game with an 82-35 victory over Oral Roberts, Wednesday (February 8).

SDSU hit five of its first six shots to open the game on a 12-0 run. They later scored the first 15 points of the second quarter to open up a commanding lead.

Kerri Young and Clarissa Ober each had 18 points in the win.

Saturday (February 11), the Jackrabbits traveled to Indianapolis for what has proved to be their most challenging road test over the past few years. The 64-59 loss at IUPUI was SDSU’s fifth straight on the Jaguars’ home floor.

The Jacks turned a three-point halftime lead into a nine-point advantage, thanks to a 14-8 run to start the third quarter. But IUPUI cut the lead to two in the fourth and then held SDSU scoreless in the final 5:21 to win the game. The Jacks finished with game with eight straight missed shots and three turnovers.

I talked with Jackrabbits Coach Aaron Johnston about last week’s split and this week’s match-ups with Western Illinois and Fort Wayne:

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