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No longer happy to just make it, SDSU women look to make March mark

BROOKINGS -- The South Dakota State University women's basketball team has officially reached "been there, done that" territory regarding the NCAA tournament.

South Dakota State University's Kerri Young (10) drives to the basket as University of South Dakota's Tia Hemiller (4) defends during a game in the Summit League conference championship March 8 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls. (Matt Gade/Republic)
South Dakota State University's Kerri Young (10) drives to the basket as University of South Dakota's Tia Hemiller (4) defends during a game in the Summit League conference championship March 8 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls. (Matt Gade/Republic)

BROOKINGS - The South Dakota State University women's basketball team has officially reached "been there, done that" territory regarding the NCAA tournament.

Not that they're past the point of being excited to reach the Big Dance, but the objective is firmly to win a couple games while they're there.

The Jackrabbits will have their chance to do that, starting on Saturday.

The 12-seed Jackrabbits (26-6) will take on the fifth-seeded University of Miami (Fla.) Saturday in Palo Alto, Calif., on the campus of Stanford University. The game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Central time and will air on ESPN2.

It's the seventh time in eight years of eligibility the Jackrabbits have made the NCAA tournament and for the players on the team, they'd like nothing more than to make a run in March.

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"We've made it a point of emphasis of going to the tournament and winning a game and getting to the Sweet 16 and stuff like that," said SDSU guard Gabby Boever, who is a sixth-year senior making her fifth trip to the NCAA tournament as a member of the Jackrabbits. "We've gotten there so many times and it's kind of getting old, if you know what I mean. Our focus this year is on actually doing well and winning a game."

A victory over Miami would mean the Jacks would play either No. 4-seed Stanford or No. 13-seed San Francisco, a pair of Bay Area teams that will essentially stay home for the opening rounds of the tournament.

In the first round, SDSU will meet another team that is a tournament regular in Miami. Making the tournament four times in the last five years, the No. 20-ranked Hurricanes hold a 24-8 overall record and went 10-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which landed five teams in the NCAA tournament field. An 11-seed a year ago, Miami defeated Washington in the first round before falling to Iowa in the round of 32.

SDSU will have a chance to get back to winning ways in the tournament, which they did in their first tournament game in 2009. The Jacks defeated Texas Christian before falling to Baylor in the second round.

"We'll be ready to go," said Mitchell native Kerri Young. "We really want to take a step forward." With a 12-seed, SDSU is in a slot that is historically known for spinning upsets on the men's side of the tournament, but that hasn't been the case as much in the women's tournament. A 12-seed has won 18 times over a 5-seed since the 64-team bracket became standard in 1994, with three upsets since 2010. The men's tournament has seen a 12-seed defeat a 5-seed 31 times since 1994. Only three 12-seeds have gotten to the women's Sweet 16, as opposed to 13 in the men's tournament since 1994.

"It's cool to make the NCAA tournament, but we really want to take that next step forward and get to the Sweet 16," Young said. "We have that in us this season."

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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