It will be a South Dakota Showdown for the Summit League women’s title. Second-seed South Dakota State Jackrabbits defeated third-seed Western Illinois Leathernecks 81-50.
This game was never really in question. SDSU never trailed and jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter. From there on out, the Jacks never looked back.
Leading the way for SDSU was junior guard Madison Guebert, who scored 20 points. Guebert left the game during the second quarter due to an apparent knee injury but returned and scored five points in the second half.
“Just hyperextended my knee a little bit,” Guebert said. “I’m good to go.”
Three other players hit double digits in scoring for the Jacks.
Junior guard Macy Miller had 16 points and connected on two shots from beyond the arc. Miller also had 10 rebounds.
Senior forward Ellie Thompson had 10 points and seven rebounds. Freshman forward Myah Selland continued her impressive Summit League Tournament debut with 10 points, five assists and three rebounds.
A big factor for the Jacks coming into the game was to out-rebound the Leathernecks. SDSU was the top team in the Summit League in rebounding margin at a +7.2 margin, while the Leathernecks were dead last with a -4.6 margin.
The Jacks were able to dominate the Leathernecks on the boards.
SDSU out rebounded Western Illinois 49-32. As a team, the Jacks had 32 defensive rebounds, matching the Leathernecks’ total.
SDSU was able to shut down Emily Clemens of Western Illinois. Clemens was coming off an outing in which she scored 33 points with eight assists against Omaha. Clemens had a strong 2017-18 campaign and came into this contest averaging 18.7 points per game.
But, there was no such luck for Clemens on Monday. The 2017 Summit League Player of the Year managed to score a mere three points in her 33 minutes on the floor.
Western Illinois was led offensively by Morgan Blumer, who had 14 points. Taylor Higginbotham was the only other Leatherneck in double-digit scoring figures with 10 points.
SDSU managed to beat Western Illinois at the turnover margin also, which coming into the game was their strong suit.
Prior to this contest, Western Illinois was the top team in the Summit League when it came to win the turnover margin, they owned +7.8 margins.
That wasn’t the case on Monday.
The Jacks forced 15 Western Illinois turnovers and stole the ball seven times.
SDSU has caused some frustration for Western Illinois head coach JD Gravina lately as they have now swept the season series between the two squads 3-0.
“I almost felt apologetic the whole game to our players and fans,” Gravina said. “I couldn’t figure it out.”
Now, SDSU will have to quickly turn their attention to a South Dakota Coyotes team that has won 20 straight games, including two against the Jacks. USD’s last loss was against Tulsa in Vermillion on Dec. 16.
For the Jacks, the focus won’t be on the Coyotes, but rather themselves. Head coach Aaron Johnston said he thinks confidence won’t be a factor, rather execution of the game plan.
Tip-off for the Summit League Championship will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 6 at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls and televised on ESPNU.
“Third time’s a charm,” Miller said after the game.