After two victories on the road last week, the South Dakota State women’s basketball team will play its last two home games of the season against the Denver Pioneers and Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.
Since falling to South Dakota Jan. 25, the Jacks have outscored their opponents 293-167 and have scored more than 100 points in a game, twice. Senior forward Ellie Thompson said the team is moving in the right direction.
“We’re definitely on an upward swing,” Thompson said. “That’s where you want to be towards the end of the season. Playing your best basketball and continuing to improve every day.”
While the team’s leading scorers, junior guard Madison Guebert and junior guard Macy Miller, have continued to score in double figures, Thompson’s carried the team lately. She averaged 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in the last three games.
“(Thompson’s) had a really good stretch here,” head coach Aaron Johnston said. “She’s really found her comfort zone and is playing with a lot more poise inside.”
Freshman guard Tylee Irwin has averaged 13.3 points per game, Johnston said her success isn’t surprising.
“Tylee has been gaining confidence all year,” Johnston said. “She has given us a good spark off the bench by shooting the ball well and getting to the basket.”
Denver (13-11, 4-5) lost three games in a row before beating Fort Wayne Feb. 4. Leading the Pioneers is freshman guard Claire Gritt, who is averaging 10.6 points per game. Gritt was one of three Pioneers to score in double figures against the Jacks in the last matchup Jan 11.
“Denver plays very fast,” Thompson said. “They are one of the fastest teams in our league so we can expect a very fast-paced game.”
Oral Roberts (14-9, 5-4) is tied with South Dakota in fewest points allowed per game in this season’s conference with 59.4. The Jacks defeated the Golden Eagles 77-70 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jan. 13. SDSU was not able to contain senior forward Faith Ihim, as she led Oral Roberts with 24 points.
“They are hard to score on,” Johnston said. “They are long inside, can block shots and are really physical. They are one of the few teams that match up well with Macy [Miller] and Madi [Guebert] when, typically, we’ve always had an advantage at least in one of those positions.”
Guebert said the final five games of the season are all very important.
“This is a time where you have to be locked in and focused,” she said. “Every team is trying to finish strong with this last stretch of games.”
The game against Denver will tip off at 7 p.m. Feb. 8. The matchup against Oral Roberts will tip off at 2 p.m. Feb. 10. Both games will be held at Frost Arena.