As we head into the final five Saturdays of the Summit League women's basketball regular season, one team has opened up some distance on the rest of the field, but seven other teams are within three games of each other.

South Dakota State (8-1) has a two game advantage, thanks to a 63-55 win over second place South Dakota in Vermillion Thursday night.  The Jacks continue their Southern road trip this afternoon in Kansas City, taking on a Roos (4-5) team that was supposed to challenge the Jacks at the top of the standings this season.

UMKC came into this year off a 22-win season, which included a runner-up finish to SDSU in the Summit League Tournament last March, and a berth in the WNIT.  But a lot has changed since.  Head Coach Canadce Whitaker left to become an assistant at Oklahoma State, All-Summit League first-teamer Dayon Hall-Jones graduated, along with eight other players, and pre-season all-conference selection Kim Nezianya hasn't played since Thanksgiving.

The Roos started slowly, losing their first three conference games this season by an average of 21 points. They're since righted the ship and won four-of-six, thanks to the play of pre-season all Summit League player Elise O'Connor, who's leading the league in scoring (18 points per game) and has 41 points in Kansas City's last two games.  She hit the game winner in the final seconds against North Dakota State Thursday night.

South Dakota State has the fifth leading scorer in the conference, Megan Waytashek, who's averaging 14 points per game, and led three Jacks double-figure scorers against USD Thursday with a game-high 18 points.

The difference between these two teams is depth.  SDSU has Ashley Eide and Katie Lingle to compliment Waytashek with an average of 21 points between then.  Without Nezianya, UMKC doesn't have another player on their roster who averages more than six points a game.

That scoring difference is evidenced in the conference statistics, where the Jacks lead the league with 71 points per game, while the Roos average just 53.  The stark contrasts don't end there.  SDSU is first in three-pointers, UMKC is last.  SDSU is first in rebounding, UMKC is next to last.

The Roos are a much better team when they don't have the ball, the fourth best scoring defense in the Summit League, but there again the Jacks have them beat with a conference best 55 points allowed per game.

SDSU controlled the first meeting in Brookings last month, giving up the first five points of the game before going on a 12-0 run en route to a 82-47 win.  Waytashek recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.  Overall the Jacks have won 12 of the last 13 against the Roos.  Tipoff today is 2:00pm in Kansas City.

In Vermillion tonight, the University of South Dakota women look to bounce back after Thursday's loss at home to South Dakota State, snapping a four game winning streak.  The Coyotes (6-3) host North Dakota State, looking for their first season sweep of the Bison in nine years.

The Coyotes outplayed South Dakota State for 32 of the 40 minutes of their game Thursday night, but during the other eight minutes they were on the wrong end of a 20-2 run and lost the game by eight.  Tempestt Wilson led three USD players in double figures with 15 points, giving her double digit point totals in each of the last 12 games.  Alexis Yackley has 10 assists.

North Dakota State is led by Katie Birkel with 13 points per game, while Dani DeGagne averages 12.  Marena Whittle is third in the league in rebounding with seven boards a game.

The Coyotes have averaged 68 points per game in their last five.  In league play, USD currently ranks second-best in scoring (66 points per game) and tops in shooting (45 percent).

The Bison are eighth in the Summit League standings and have struggled on defense, allowing opponents to shoot a league best 47 percent against them.  They are also next to last in scoring defense, allowing 66 points per game.  The one thing NDSU does well is take care of the basketball, committing the league’s fewest turnovers (12 per game).

In the first meeting between these two last month, South Dakota outscored the Bison 42-15 in the second half en route to a 73-52 win. Nicole Seekamp scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half to lead USD in scoring.  Wilson and Polly Harrington both added double-digit points with 15 and 10, respectively, and Margaret McCloud was one point shy of a double-double (nine points, 13 rebounds).

North Dakota State shot 25 percent in the second half after shooting 52 percent in the first.  DeGagne led NDSU in scoring with 17 while Jamie Van Kirk added 14 points.

Tipoff tonight at 7:00pm in the DakotaDome.