SIOUX FALLS -- History was on South Dakota State’s side.
The Jackrabbit women’s basketball team has never lost when reaching the final Summit League women’s basketball tournament game. Macy Miller and the Jacks made sure that didn’t change Tuesday.
The Jackrabbits won their eighth Summit League tournament championship in 10 tries with a 65-50 victory over top-seeded South Dakota Tuesday afternoon in front of 8,704 fans at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.
“This feeling is amazing right now,” Miller said on the court following the postgame awards, repeating her own history with her second career Summit League tournament MVP award. “We knew USD was a really good team and I felt that everyone on our team and on our bench stepped up for us. This is what you play for.”
Miller, the junior and Mitchell native had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on 6-for-8 shooting, as the Jackrabbits (26-6) never trailed and held an 11-0 lead after the first four minutes. Contrary to the first two meetings with the Coyotes this season, SDSU established its tone offensively in the paint early and the Jacks had a 65-percent performance shooting in the first half on the way to a 33-20 halftime lead.
“We always thrive when we get the ball in the paint, whether that’s close touches or driving it in,” senior Ellie Thompson said. “I think we did a really good job, especially in the first quarter, getting post touches and getting points in the paint. We did a good job of keeping them out of the paint and forcing them to take some tough mid-range jumpers.”
Thompson had 14 points, Tagyn Larson scored 13 and Letcher native Myah Selland scored 10 points and hauled in eight rebounds. The Jackrabbits controlled the paint, outscoring USD 36-16 inside and had a 38-23 rebounding advantage.
“The first two times (we played), they were better in that area,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said. “We gave up too many shots in there and I think we did a good job of taking that away.”
On the side of the Coyotes, they shot 23 percent or worse in three of the four quarters and never fully rallied to put SDSU’s lead in jeopardy. A five-point USD deficit with 3 minutes left before halftime swelled to 13 before the intermission, and in the fourth quarter, with SDSU’s lead down to nine, the Coyotes did not make a field goal the rest of the way. USD was 6-for-30 on 3-pointers and couldn’t take advantage of the Jacks’ 20 turnovers.
It’s a heartbreaking end for the Coyotes (26-6), who won 20 straight games prior to Tuesday but likely won’t go the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection. The loss replicated the 2016 season, in which USD swept SDSU in the regular season but the Jacks won the conference title game. Duffy had 12 points, while Allison Arens had nine points for the Coyotes.
Instead, SDSU will take another shot at the NCAA Tournament with a group that is both talented and tested. The Jacks will find out their tournament opponent on Monday, with the first round of games on March 16 and 17.
“I think that this says a lot about the team,” said Selland. “We trust each other and we know that we’re capable of doing what we set our minds to.”