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Jackrabbit women cruise into Summit final

SIOUX FALLS -- Without much trouble, the South Dakota State University women's basketball team did the job Monday. The second-seeded Jackrabbits scored 53 points in the first half and drilled 11 3-pointers, downing Western Illinois in an 80-51 Su...

South Dakota State's Macy Miller, left, and Western Illinois' Olivia Kaufmann fight for a rebound at the Summit League women's basketball tournament semifinal at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls. (Dick Carlson / Inertia)
South Dakota State's Macy Miller, left, and Western Illinois' Olivia Kaufmann fight for a rebound at the Summit League women's basketball tournament semifinal at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls. (Dick Carlson / Inertia)

SIOUX FALLS -- Without much trouble, the South Dakota State University women’s basketball team did the job Monday.

The second-seeded Jackrabbits scored 53 points in the first half and drilled 11 3-pointers, downing Western Illinois in an 80-51 Summit League tournament semifinal win Monday at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

It sets up the meeting between the two best teams in the conference all season, with the University of South Dakota (26-5) and the Jackrabbits playing for the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The Coyotes won the the first two meetings with SDSU earlier this season and advanced Monday with a 65-53 victory over Oral Roberts.

On Monday, the Jackrabbits took apart the last Summit tournament champion from the start. SDSU hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter and led 27-14, outgunning an outside-shooting-happy Leatherneck offense that posted 97 points in Sunday’s quarterfinal win over Omaha.

“I thought we defended really well throughout the game, rebounded really well throughout the game,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said. “We were really balanced throughout the game offensively and I thought our bench really played well for us.”

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Mitchell native and Jackrabbit junior Macy Miller scored 16 points and 10 rebounds, marking the fourth double-double of her career. Teammate Madison Guebert scored 20 points and Ellie Thompson and Letcher native Myah Selland each scored 10 points for the Jackrabbits, who led by as many as 42 points midway through the fourth quarter.

“We were poised offensively, we did a good job of pass-faking and shot-faking, and we just kept making the extra pass and found the open person,” said Miller, who is now tied for fifth all-time in scoring among Jackrabbit women’s basketball players.

SDSU already led 38-24 with 5:17 left in the first half when the Jackrabbits put together a 15-0 run to close the half, capped with a Miller layup before the halftime horn. There was some concern about Guebert, who went down with a knee injury just before halftime but returned to start the second half.

The Jacks put the game away with a 13-3 run through the middle of the third quarter, perplexing the Leathernecks for a third time this season. Morgan Blumer scored 14 points and Taylor Higginbotham had 10 points, but WIU was held to 31 percent shooting and was outrebounded by 17.  

“Obviously, that wasn’t much fun,” WIU coach J.D. Gravina said. “(SDSU’s) an incredible team and I don’t know what it is about them that brings the worst out in us and us that brings the best out of them. When you play a top-50 RPI team, you have to be at your best.”

That sets up Tuesday’s championship game meeting, which has been frequent to end the season in Sioux Falls. The game will be the fourth meeting in six years between the two schools and SDSU has won all three previous championship games.

But the Coyotes have owned the series so far this season. The Jackrabbits vow they’ll be ready for USD in the meeting for the conference championship.

“We’re really excited,” Miller said. “The first game, we didn’t play very well at home but I think we did some good things at USD and just didn’t get the win. (Hopefully), the third time is the charm and we’re ready to get at them (today).”

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South Dakota State 80, Western Illinois 51

Western Illinois (22-9): Olivia Braun 2-4 0-0 4 Emily Clemens 1-6 1-2 3 Morgan Blumer 5-11 0-0 14 Michelle Farrow 2-9 0-0 6 Taylor Higginbotham 4-14 1-1 10 Olivia Kaufmann 1-4 1-4 4 Krishna Merriman 1-3 0-0 2 Sam Pryor 2-4 0-0 6 Totals 18-58 5-9 51

South Dakota State (25-6): Tagyn Larson 1-5 2-2 4 Ellie Thompson 2-6 6-8 10 Alexis Alexander 1-2 0-0 3 Madison Guebert 6-10 5-5 20 Macy Miller 6-16 2-2 16 Rylie Cascio Jensen 1-7 0-0 3 Tylee Irwin 3-5 0-0 7 Sydney Palmer 2-5 0-0 5 Sydney Tracy 0-2 0-0 0 Myah Selland 4-5 0-0 10 Megan Bultsma 1-1 0-0 2 Totals 27-64 15-17 80

WIU 14 24 36 51

SDSU 27 53 71 80

3-point goals: WIU 10-33 (Blumer 4-9, Pryor 2-3, Farrow 2-9, Gilmore 1-3, Higginbotham 1-4, Clemens 0-2, Braun 0-1), SDSU 11-25 (Selland 2-2, Guebert 3-6, Miller 2-4, Irwin 1-2, Alexander 1-2, Palmer 1-3, Cascio Jensen 1-4, Tracy 0-1, Larson 0-1). Rebounds-offensive: WIU 32-10 (Gilmore 6, Braun 6), SDSU 49-17 (Miller 10, Thompson 7). Total fouls: WIU 17, SDSU 13. Fouled out: none. Assists: WIU 10 (Clemens 4), SDSU 16 (Cascio Jensen 5, Selland 5). Turnovers: WIU 15, SDSU 12. Blocks: WIU 7 (Braun 4), SDSU 3 (Bultsma, Larson, Thompson). Steals: WIU 6 (Braun 2, Blumer 2), SDSU 7 (Miller 2, Selland 2). A -- 6,424.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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