Summit League tournament: South Dakota State women shake off early nerves to cruise past St. Thomas
Jackrabbits dominate final three quarters after sluggish start
SIOUX FALLS — Just a few minutes into South Dakota State's Summit League tournament opener, the top-seeded and heavily-favored Jackrabbits found themselves in a rock fight with 8th-seeded St. Thomas.
They trailed 6-4 more than halfway into the first quarter, and coach Aaron Johnston entered Brooklyn Meyer, Kallie Theisen and Madison Mathiowetz into the game.
The fans were sitting on their hands and the Jacks looked like they were still shaking off the cobwebs, so the time seemed right to make a few changes.
Was Johnston trying to send a message to the starters? No, he would say later. Just trying to wake them up a little bit? No, that wasn't it, either.
St. Thomas, having won a first round play-in game the day before, started the day with momentum. The Jackrabbits did not quite have that, as the most recent of their 18 consecutive wins came back on Feb. 25. Johnston was neither surprised nor disappointed that his team looked a little flat early on. And even less surprised they quickly righted the ship and orchestrated an eventual 87-59 win.
"You know, I do think there's always some early nerves," Johnston said. "It is different. When teams play a game before you have, it just is. Usually you have that kind of both teams feeling out that first quarter. So we kind of talk about that a little bit ahead of time. I think regardless of what the score was, we probably would have tried to kind of get everybody going in that direction."
The plan worked. Though St. Thomas would take an 18-14 lead to the first quarter break, SDSU outscored them 26-11 in the second to establish control and build a 40-29 halftime advantage.
It felt like that was enough for SDSU fans to start making plans for Monday's semifinals, but the Tommies came out in the third determined to stay in the game. That lasted for awhile, but the Jacks closed the period strong and then poured it on in the fourth, eventually going up by as much as 29.
Myah Selland led the Jacks with 15 points, but everyone scored. Paige Meyer had 14, Brooklyn Meyer had 11 off the bench and Haleigh Timmer had 10. The Jacks shot 57.6 percent from the floor, including 10-of-14 in the second quarter (71.4 percent) and 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) in the fourth. They scored a whopping 56 points in the paint.
"We've always kind of tried to be that team that can go inside-out," Selland said. "Today, we did a really good job on the inside. I think just the flexibility of our team, the versatility — we were able to do both."
Jordyn Glynn had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Tommies (13-17), going 7-of-7 from the floor. Jo Langbehn added 16 points.
By game's end, the slow start was long forgotten. SDSU will now face the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal between 4th-seeded South Dakota and 5th-seeded Oral Roberts on Monday. They already beat both of those teams twice, and will likely come out a little faster and sharper in that one than they did Saturday.
"Those first quarter jitters — we just had to get them out a little bit," Paige Meyer said. "Regroup and get after it."