South Dakota State women visit USD looking for 14th consecutive win
Jackrabbits embarrassed Coyotes in prior meeting
VERMILLION — The University of South Dakota women are on a three-game losing streak, and the last time they faced South Dakota State, the Coyotes suffered an epic beatdown, losing 118-59 at Frost Arena.
What better time for a rematch, right?
"It's as good a time as any to have this rivalry game," said USD coach Kayla Karius.
And why not? For one thing, this meeting can't possibly go any worse for the Yotes than the trip to Frost did. With no disrespect to the Jackrabbits, who were on fire that day, everything that could've gone right for SDSU that day, did. And not to make excuses for the 'Yotes, but it all went wrong for them.
Are the Jacks the superior team? No question about it. They're 20-5 and 13-0 in league play. Since squeaking past Oral Roberts in the Summit League opener, SDSU hasn't really been tested, with 11 of their last 12 wins coming by double-digit margins.
But the rebuilding Coyotes are still a dangerous team, one that has a history of defending its home court well in this rivalry.
USD has won seven consecutive meetings in Vermillion.
"We're going to take that excitement of being at home," said Karius, whose team enters the game 11-13 overall and 7-6 in Summit League action. "You feel comfortable at home, playing in front of your fans. It's a good time to get back at it."
Jackrabbit coach Aaron Johnston said the previous meeting was so lopsided that his team would almost 'throw out' the result as they prepared for the rematch. That's not to say there aren't things they did well that day that they plan to do well again, but shooting 60 percent on 70 shots, including 17-of-32 from 3-point land, will be tough to repeat.
"To think that's the measuring stick would be silly," Johnston said. "For us to be good in that game we're going to have to handle physicality. They do a good job of taking you off your cuts and keeping you off your spots. And we'll have to defend the 3-point line. They're one of the best shooting teams in the league and they do it from different spots."
The Coyotes have hit 199 3s in 24 games, connecting at a .359 clip. They're led by Grace Larkins, who ranks third in the league in scoring (17.9), third in rebounding (7.6), first in assists (4.7) and third in steals (2.0), and foul trouble made Larkins less of a factor in the previous meeting.
What will be especially tough for USD to overcome will be depth. The 'Yotes are playing with eight healthy bodies, while the Jackrabbits have seven players averaging at least 5.5 points per game and go at least 10 deep most nights. Point guard Paige Meyer continues to improve after missing the first 12 games of the season recovering from injury, shooting 52 percent from outside, while seniors Myah Selland (16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds) and Paiton Burckhard (11.0 points, 5.4 boards) continue to be their steady selves. The Jacks are holding opponents to 62 points per game, 38 percent shooting, and enjoying a plus-10 rebounding advantage. They're also averaging more than 20 free throw attempts per game.
It would be tempting, if you're the Coyotes, to flush the last meeting and never watch it again, but Karius said there was more to it than simply bad luck or getting overwhelmed by the Frost Arena crowd. And they need to adjust to have a shot at winning on Saturday.
"We could've taken care of the ball better," Karius said. "We could've controlled tempo better. Our effort — those are the things you have to hold onto. It didn't go our way and then it unraveled. You have to pick out the things that can help you moving forward."