Summit League Tournament: Jackrabbits Beat Coyotes 83-71
For the ninth time in 11 years, South Dakota State reigns as champions of the Summit League Women’s Basketball Tournament.
And this one had a very familiar feel.
The top-seeded Jackrabbits 83-71 victory was the fifth straight title triumph over arch-rival second-seeded South Dakota, and as they had in those previous match-ups, the Coyotes struggled offensively against the SDSU defense.
In those four Summit League Tournament title losses, the Coyotes failed to shoot above 37 percent and never scored more than 57 points against the Jackrabbits.
Even in the one game USD did prevail over SDSU - the 2014 Summit League Semifinals - the Coyotes only connected on 36 percent of their shots.
And while South Dakota did score 71 against South Dakota State Tuesday afternoon (March 12), the Coyotes shooting percentage was just 32 percent - their lowest in a game since a late December loss to Indiana.
South Dakota State jumped out to an early four-point lead as South Dakota turned the ball over and got off a couple of rushed shots.
USD grabbed their first lead at 5-4 on a Ciara Duffy lay in, but on the play Duffy, the Coyotes leading scorer, came up holding her ankle and had to leave the game. She did return three minutes later but was noticeably limping the rest of the game.
During the time Duffy was on the bench, South Dakota starting crashing the offensive glass, grabbing six in the first quarter, including a couple of put backs from Hannah Sjerven to give USD a 17-15 lead after ten minutes, despite shooting just 35 percent from the floor.
The Coyotes found their shooting touch in the early stages of the second quarter, scoring the first eight points to extend their lead to ten a little more than two minutes into the frame.
The Jackrabbits found the answer they were looking for in their senior backcourt.
Madison Guebert scored nine points in the first 4:30 of the second quarter and then Macy Miller went to work, first with back-to-back traditional three-point plays and then a three-pointer, keying a 22-4 SDSU run that would see them lead by as many as 11.
Sjerven responded with four straight points to cut the SDSU advantage to 45-38 at halftime.
The Jackrabbit defense was dominant to start the second half, forcing three turnovers on the Coyotes first four possessions and using a zone to limit USD to 1-of-5 from the floor to begin the third quarter, as SDSU pushed the lead to 54-40.
The drought deepened for South Dakota later in the third as they went more than six minutes without a field goal.
Meanwhile, Miller was staying hot for South Dakota State, burying back-to-back three-pointers in the final minutes of the period to extend the Jacks lead to 68-49 after three.
That lead was as many as 19 in the fourth before the Coyotes mounted one final run, using a trapping defense to force Jackrabbit turnovers and key an 8-0 run.
Arens scored 10 straight points for USD, who cut it to eight with 1:15 to play, but the Coyotes missed a couple of key shots late and got no closer.
Miller finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds for South Dakota State. Guebert added 22 points.
Arens led South Dakota with 26 points. Chloe Lamb added 14 points.
A crowd of 7,871 watched the game at the PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls.
South Dakota State will be the Summit League’s automatic qualifier for the Women’s NCAA Tournament, but South Dakota with an RPI of 36 coming into the tournament, should get an at-large berth in the 64-team field. That would be the first time two Summit League teams would qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Both teams will find out their fates when the brackets are revealed during the NCAA Tournament selection show, which airs on ESPN, Monday (March 18) at 6:00 PM.