Depth, muscle show for SDSU women in dispatching of tourney newcomer Tommies
As veterans of the Summit League tournament, Jackrabbits showed St. Thomas what's required to win in Sioux Falls
SIOUX FALLS — It was No. 1 vs. the newcomer on Saturday in the Summit League women’s basketball tournament quarterfinals.
And South Dakota State flexed its muscle in an 87-59 win over St. Thomas at the Premier Center. That was predictable, considering SDSU hasn’t lost a game in conference play all season and ran the winning streak to 19 in a row this season, matching a program-best.
But considering St. Thomas was playing in the Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament at this time two years ago and made its first appearance under the big lights in Sioux Falls, the performance on Saturday was pretty good in that context. The Tommies won their first game on Friday over Western Illinois but they were aware of the step up in class with SDSU.
“They’re an amazing team and program. … They’re very difficult to play,” St. Thomas coach Ruth Sinn said. “There’s no question we had our hands full. Defensively, they lead the league, and offensively, they lead the league. We just wanted to leave it out on the floor. They did a great job.”
In the end, SDSU (26-5) showed it had more to offer. The Jackrabbits outscored UST 32-8 in bench points and 56-26 on points in the paint. SDSU was 13-for-19 on shots deemed layups and scored on 64.1% of their possessions.
SDSU played 10 players for at least 14 minutes in the game, a luxury for a team that knows it will need its legs on Monday and Tuesday afternoon, as well. That can be done when you know how to blow out a team in the first round, improving to 13-2 all-time in their first Summit tournament game.
“That’s been our strength the whole year, just the depth of our team,” SDSU’s Myah Selland said, acknowledging the task of trying to win three games in four days with Sunday as a day off.
SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said it was purposeful to get a number of players involved in the game early, trying to burn through potential nerves. He said he tries to manage the court time, knowing the demands of the tournament on players. Despite all of the experience the Jacks have, SDSU had five players — including experienced guards Dru Gylten and Paige Meyer — who were playing in the Summit League tournament for the first time.
“In these games, they’re a little more amped up and everyone just gets a little more tired more quickly, so we’re trying to avoid the fatigue and fouls,” Johnston said. “You get into these games and the emotion of it is a little different.”
SDSU is playing for an 11th trip to the NCAA tournament, a product of a transition from Division II that worked more smoothly than anyone could have imagined. St. Thomas is just starting out on their trek from Division III, trying to play and practice with a “Division I standard,” senior guard Jordyn Glynn said. Fellow senior Maggie Negaard said she looks forward to a day where she can root on St. Thomas to come back and “win this thing.”
The Jackrabbits have juniors and seniors that lead the way, Sinn said, something the Tommies enjoyed at Division III, and it allows younger players to come in and play without worrying about the leadership responsibilities. Four of UST’s seven leaders in court time are freshmen or sophomores.
“It’s a lot to ask just maturity-wise. There’s a lot put on their shoulders,” Sinn said of her Division I pioneers.