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Traxler: After USD loss, balance needed for Jackrabbit women

South Dakota State's Macy Miller (12) shoots between the defense of University of South Dakota's Chloe Lamb (22) and Jasmine Trimboli (5) during a game at Frost Arena in Brookings. (Matt Gade / Republic)

There was some surprise and some shock Thursday night at Frost Arena.

Not so much with the 67-61 University of South Dakota win over the rivals at South Dakota State. The Coyotes had blown through the first segment of the conference schedule without much resistance and the victory was the second in three years for USD in Brookings.

Surprising was in the manner in which USD got it done, getting the key shots in the face of a tough road crowd and from their athletic forward Kate Liveringhouse, who had a season-high 20 points.

Traditionally, that's usually South Dakota State's game. SDSU has long had an ability to have its forwards be a key part of the offense, players who can play both inside and out and present the matchup problems.

That didn't really happen for the Jacks on Thursday, who were never able to get forwards Tagyn Larson and Ellie Thompson going in the offense. They were a combined 4-for-9 with 11 points

The Jackrabbits are led by their two dynamic junior guards in Macy Miller and Madison Guebert. Both are able to make all kinds of shots and capable of generating their own offense and they made the SDSU offense go on Thursday. But SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said they will need more from the rest of their players going forward for the Jackrabbits to continue their winning ways.

"We need other people to step up, frankly," he said.

Johnston noted the absence of freshman standout and Letcher native Myah Selland, who is sidelined indefinitely with an injured foot. Selland has shown an ability to fill the stat sheet with points, rebounds, assists and steals and would have made a difference, Johnston said.

From an SDSU perspective, it's not worth overreacting to one game. It would seem that playing four-win Fort Wayne today will help cure a lot of the concerns. But there's no doubt that Selland's injury is a concern because of how much she's done in a short amount of time, quickly becoming integral to the SDSU operation.

It makes the Jackrabbits more interesting to observe, and to see how they can make it work. Because they have a habit of adjusting and making it work, especially before making a run in March.

USD was impressive, simply with its ability to play defense and knock down some important shots, gaining its most significant win of the season to date. And the Coyotes have the inside track for the Summit League regular season title, as the Jackrabbits will play five of their final seven conference games on the road, including a Feb. 21 visit to Vermillion.

It had been almost assumed that South Dakota State will make the Summit League Tournament championship game, win that, and go to the NCAA Tournament. And if not, maybe an at-large bid for the Jacks, based on the merit of the SDSU's non-conference schedule.

Either of those options can still happen. But there's still plenty to figure out, making the Jackrabbits a compelling team to watch in the next six weeks.

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