SDSU women move on to quarters in WNIT
BROOKINGS — South Dakota State University took control late in a 70-62 victory over the University of Minnesota during the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Thursday night at Frost Arena.
The Jackrabbits (25-9), playing in front of a season-high 3,320 fans, ran their home win streak to 20 games and earned the right to host Indiana in a quarterfinal game at 2 p.m. Sunday.
What the Gophers lacked in numbers — they had more coaches and personnel (11) on the bench than players in uniform (seven) — they made up for in length, most notably Amanda Zahui. The 6-foot-5 freshman made things difficult inside on both ends, forcing SDSU to rely on perimeter shooting for much of the game.
The Jackrabbits went just 8-of-33 (24.2 percent) from the field, including a 3-of-18 mark from three-point range, in the first half before getting it going in the second.
“We just starting hitting shots, started moving the ball more and the ball started going in the hoop so we put points on the board,” said SDSU senior Steph Paluch, who had 17 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Paluch jumpstarted an 11-2 run that put the game away.
“It was another great win for us. It kind of followed suit to the other two WNIT games,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston, whose team went 15-of-32 (46.9 percent) from the field in the second half, including 7-of-14 from behind the arc. “Everybody you play right now, I think, is really good defensively. It’s not like you get a ton of easy baskets.
“In the second half, as we kept plugging away, we obviously starting making some shots. We got just enough of a push — the crowd was wonderful, as always. Frost Arena gets loud when things are going well.”
Zahui recorded game-high totals of 26 points (on 11-of-14 shooting), 11 rebounds and five blocks. Banham, the Gophers’ leading scorer at 22 points per game, was held in check for much of the contest as 11 of her 25 points came in the final 51 seconds.
Gabby Boever finished with five points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals while not committing a turnover. Mitchell native Kerri Young finished with five points in the win.
Notes: SDSU leads the all-time series versus Minnesota, 5-1. ... The Jackrabbits also advanced to the WNIT quarterfinals during the 2006-07 season. The tournament format has since changed, as SDSU received a first-round bye and needed just two wins to advance to the quarters that season.