Summit League Preview: South Dakota State Women Host Denver
The good news for the South Dakota State women's basketball team?
They only have to play once during the final week of the Summit League regular season.
The bad news for the Jackrabbits?
They only have one game left in the regular season and that might not going to be enough to nail down a #1 seed at the conference tournament.
SDSU (20-7/11-4) hosts Denver, Thursday night (February 23), at Frost Arena. The Jacks take the floor in a three-way tie (with South Dakota and IUPUI) for second in the Summit League, one game behind Western Illinois.
The Pioneers (6-21/3-11) are in a dogfight of a different sort. They've lost four straight and 19 of their last 23. The one silver lining? Two of those four wins have come on the road.
Denver is seventh in the Summit in points scored and points allowed. Only two players have started every league game this season - seniors Jacqlyn Poss and Jesse Spittel. Poss has led the Pioneers in scoring in the last eight games.
Injuries and a host of new faces have contributed to Denver's up and down season. Freshman Lauren Loven led the team in scoring seven times, and for a time led all first year players nationally in three-pointer shooting, but has averaged just five points a game in her last eight.
Tipoff is 7:00 PM in Brookings.
SDSU won the first meeting 72-63 using a 14-2 run midway through the second quarter to lead by as many as 11. They then opened the second half with an 11-0 run, sparked by six straight points by Ellie Thompson, to extend the lead to 19.
Denver rallied in the fourth, as Loven hit back-to-back 3-pointers with 4:38 left cut the Jackrabbits' lead to nine points, 60-51.
Madison Guebert had a career-high 32 points on 11-of-12 shooting, and 4-of-5 from the three point arc. Thompson 22 points and eight rebounds.
Loven led the Pioneers with 20 points.
Last week, in a battle of first place teams, the Jackrabbits lost at Western Illinois 83-77, Wednesday (February 15).
SDSU trailed by as many as 12 in the first quarter after beginning the game 1-of-5 from the floor with four turnovers.
The Jackrabbit defense began attacking the three-point line in the second quarter, forcing four straight long range misses from the Leathernecks.
In the meantime, South Dakota State scored 20 of the next 24 points to lead by seven at halftime. Kerri Young scored 10 of her 14 points in the first 20 minutes.
Western started hitting three's again in the third quarter - four straight at one point - to lead by one heading into the fourth quarter.
Down six in the final two minutes, the Jackrabbits got three-pointers from Maddie Geubert and Lexi Alexander to cut the lead to one. Guebert finished the game with six three's and 23 points overall.
With it still a one-point game in the final seconds, the Leathernecks were granted a timeout on a loose ball, prompting SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston to pick up a technical foul.
WIU sank those two free throws, and four more in the final seconds to secure the win.
At Fort Wayne Saturday (February 18), the Jackrabbits won 76-59 thanks in part to a pair of big runs, 15-4 in the first quarter and 12-2 in the third.
Clarissa Ober scored seven of her 11 points in the first ten minutes. Thompson led SDSU with 20 points, Guebert finished with 15.
The Jackrabbits shot 54 percent from the floor and a very efficient 7-of-11 from the three-point line. The 64 percent long range success was SDSU's best in thirteen years.
The victory clinches South Dakota State's sixth straight 20-win season, the 20th overall in program history.
I talked with Jackrabbits Coach Aaron Johnston about last week's split and this week's match-up with Denver: