Women’s Summit League Tournament Preview: South Dakota State vs. Oakland
These are very familiar times for the South Dakota State women's basketball team.
Four the last four years, the Summit League Tournament has been in their backyard, an hour from the Brookings campus, at the Sioux Falls Arena. In each of those four years, when the dust settled, the Jackrabbits were cutting down the nets and heading to the NCAA Tournament.
12 games and 12 wins later, SDSU is back in Sioux Falls, and back as the number one seed for the third time in five years. Adding to the familiarity, their first round opponent, Oakland. Two of their previous four championship runs have featured title match-ups with the Golden Grizzlies, in 2009 and 2011.
This time the teams meet in the first round, and on paper, it figures to be a huge mismatch.
When the season began, Oakland, with the pre-season Player of the Year Bethany Watterworth, was considered one of two or three teams with a legitimate chance of ending South Dakota State's title landslide. But because of injury, Watterworth never got a chance to play this season, and the Grizzlies have suffered greatly.
Oakland has endured losing streaks of 3, 4 (current), and 5 games this season, winning just twice since January first. They haven't beaten the Jackrabbits in six straight.
Head Coach Beckie Francis is trying to get it done with a starting lineup that features two juniors, a sophomore, and two freshmen. One of those first year players, guard Elena Popkey, made the Summit League's All-Newcomer team this season, after finishing in the top ten in scoring (13 points per game), field goal percentage (44%), three-point shooting (27 made - 47%), and assists (3 per game).
Oakland is 8th in the nine team league in scoring (56 points per game), and seventh in points allowed (64 per game). The one thing they do well is shoot three-pointers, with the fourth most triples in the league this season (79).
South Dakota State's roster is full of stars, including two all-conference players, and the top reserve. All-Summit League first teamers Megan Waytashek and Ashley Eide lead the Jacks in scoring with 18 and 13 points per game respectively.
Waytaskek, a sophomore, is also the Summit's top three-point shooter (37 made - 51%), number two in field goal percentage (54%), fourth in free throw shooting (84%) and sixth in attempts (48).
Senior Katie Lingle is the conference's Sixth Woman of the Year, averaging nine points and four rebounds, while shooting 51 percent (4th best) in an average of 18 minutes a game.
The two regular season meetings were lopsided SDSU wins. The Jacks winning by 21 at Oakland and by 35 in Brookings. In those games, South Dakota State has knocked down 20 three's, outscored OU 72-26 in the paint, and held the Grizzlies to 35 percent shooting.
Tipoff is noon today at the Sioux Falls Arena. The winner plays the Fort Wayne - Western Illinois winner in Monday's semifinal round.