SDSU women playing in familiar place at Big DanceBROOKINGS (AP) — The South Dakota State University women’s basketball team is looking to reverse a recent history of losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and the Jackrabbits have confidence in their opening-round matchup against Purdue.
BROOKINGS (AP) — The South Dakota State University women’s basketball team is looking to reverse a recent history of losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and the Jackrabbits have confidence in their opening-round matchup against Purdue.
The Jackrabbits played Purdue last season on the road, and they will do the same Saturday. They lost by 33 points last season but gained what they hope will be valuable experience.
“We know what that atmosphere can be like,” senior forward Jennie Sunnarborg said. “And playing on that home court, it’s fun, it’s a challenge.”
SDSU (24-8) is making its fourth consecutive tournament appearance. The school made it to the second round in 2009 but hasn’t advanced beyond the opening round in the past two tournaments.
The 13th seed Jackrabbits are facing a fourth-seed Boilermakers team (24-8) that plays in front of an average home crowd of about 8,500 fans.
“I think the biggest thing is we have played in their gym before, but it was a long time ago and this is a new year and a new team,” senior guard and Mitchell native Jill Young said. “We have experience and a lot of upperclassmen and sophomores that have been (to the tournament) before. We know what to expect and we just have to stay together.”
SDSU has played six games this season against teams in the 64-team NCAA tournament field, going 2-4.
“That’s what helps get us prepared for going to play a Purdue,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said. “It doesn’t make it easier, but at least you’re familiar with the level and you’re familiar with the atmosphere.”
One of the Purdue players SDSU will go up against is Boilermakers starting forward Sam Ostarello, who is from Fort Pierre and was a standout at Stanley County High School. The 6-foot-2 Ostarello has started all 32 games, average 8 points and a team-best 8 rebounds.
The winner of Saturday’s game will face either South Carolina or Eastern Michigan on Monday.