Summit League Preview: South Dakota State Women Host South Dakota, Fort Wayne
Up until last year, South Dakota schools had won either the regular season title (seven times) or the conference tournament championship (eight times) every year since teams from the Mount Rushmore State began playing in the Summit League.
But Western Illinois changed all of that in the 2016-17 season, winning both the regular season and tournament titles.
This season, South Dakota's two Summit League teams seem bound and determined to reassert their dominance in the conference.
When South Dakota State hosts South Dakota in Brookings, Thursday (January 25), it will be a match-up of the two lone remaining unbeaten teams in league play.
The Jackrabbits (16-4/5-0 Summit League) and Coyotes (15-5/6-0 Summit League) have won a combined 15 straight games. USD's nine-game streak is the tenth longest in the nation and is the byproduct of a number of key factors.
The Coyotes are tops in the league in assists (16 per game), which leads to quality shots and the top shooting percentage (51 percent) in the Summit. USD is also the most productive team in the conference from behind the three-point arc, hitting ten per game.
Defensively, the Coyotes are number one in steals (12 per game) and allow the fewest points per game (56) of any team in the Summit. Jasmine Trimboli and Madison McKeever are among the top three in steals.
Offensively, balance is the key with five players averaging in double figures in scoring. Nine different players have led USD in scoring in the first 20 games. Sophomore guard Ciara Duffy leads all scorers, averaging 15 points per game.
Trimboli started last time out for the injured Jaycee Bradley and continued her red hot shooting. In the Coyotes last four games, the senior has hit 73 percent of her shots (24-of-33).
South Dakota State guard Myah Selland missed the Jacks' last game with an injury. Tagyn Larson stared in her place, scoring seven points (3-of-4 shooting) and grabbing nine rebounds against Western Illinois.
Tipoff is 7:00 PM in Brookings, Thursday.
The Jackrabbits close out the first half of the league schedule when they host Fort Wayne, Saturday (January 27).
The Mastodons (4-16/1-6 Summit League) have been outscored by an average of 36 points per game during their current three-game losing streak.
Fort Wayne is struggling to find an identity, starting ten different players in seven conference games. The Mastodons have just one senior on their roster (Keshyra McCarver) and have just one player (De'Jour Young) who averages in double figures in scoring.
They are last in the league in points scored, points allowed, field goal percentage, and turnovers.
Tipoff is 2:00 PM in Brookings, Saturday.
Last Tuesday (January 16), the Jackrabbits posted a 76-63 non-conference win over Dakota Wesleyan, but this one was hardly easy.
The NAIA Tigers shot 59 percent in the first half, racing out to an 11-2 lead and pushing that advantage to as many as 11 points in the first 20 minutes before SDSU responded to cut it to four at intermission. Twins Ashley and Amber Bray combined to shoot 9-of-9 for 20 points in the first half for Wesleyan.
The Jackrabbits took control of the game in the second half, outscoring DWU 27-9 in the third quarter. Macy Miller had 12 of her 23 points in the second half on 5-of-7 shooting.
In the second 20 minutes, SDSU made six three-pointers.
Saturday (January 20), the Jackrabbits and Western Illinois, two of the top offensive teams in the Summit League, got off to a very slow start hitting a combined 1-of-13 to start the game.
But after that it was all SDSU.
The Jacks made 63 percent of their remaining shots (17-of-27) while holding the defending conference regular season and tournament champs to just season-lows in points and shooting (23 percent) in an 84-48 win.
SDSU blew the game open with a 15-3 run to start the second quarter. Miller had seven points during the stretch. She finished the game with a season-high 31 points.
Tylee Irwin tied a career-high with 14 points off the bench.
The win was the 144th Summit League victory for SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston, moving him into first place all-time among conference coaches.
I talked with Johnston about last week's sweep and this week's match-ups with South Dakota and Fort Wayne: