SDSU avenges loss to NDSU

Marcus Traxler

Marcus TraxlerAssistant Sports Editor

If the idea of playing basketball well is a puzzle, the Jackrabbits might be putting it all together.

SDSU (16-13, 12-6) never trailed against rival North Dakota State (13-15, 9-9) in tallying their fifth win in a row, this time by a 64-51 score at the Bison Sports Arena in Fargo, N.D. on Feb. 26.

It marks eight wins in the last nine games for the Jacks and crowd favorite at the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls. Statistically, they will also go in as the hottest team in the conference.

“I think it can help you without any doubt. But it’s still such a different event and the pressure is so much more different than the regular season. The pressure is not too much but when you’re facing the idea that this game could be your last, it changes how you approach a shot or a free throw,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston in his postgame press conference..

The Jackrabbits backcourt triumvirate of Kristin Rotert, Jill Young, and Macie Michelson combined for 42 of the 64 Jacks points and helped SDSU control the game from the start. The Jacks only held a six point lead at halftime but shot 65 percent in the second half to stretch the advantage to as much as 18 points with eight minutes left.

“That’s what you need. Tonight, we shortened our rotation, not intentionally going into the game, but I thought we were better with those three on the floor and that’s what you want from two seniors and a junior,” Johnston said.

In the December meeting at Frost Arena, NDSU’s guards carved up the Jackrabbit defense on the way to a surprising road win. However, in the season finale, the Bison struggled all night to stay with the Jackrabbits. NDSU was only able to muster 38 percent from the field for the night, watching another opportunity to beat SDSU at home for the first time since 2006 pass to no avail.

Like other Summit League teams, SDSU had trouble keeping standout guard Abby Plucker off the stat sheet, who paired 17 points with 16 rebounds. But outside of Janae Burich’s 16 point performance, the Bison couldn’t keep up with the Jacks.

“We defended really well. Tonight, we were so much more energetic, so much more aware and alert and communicated well. We didn’t give them a lot of easy shots. The shots they did get I thought we contested for the most part and were defended well,” Johnston said.

In addition to her 16 points, Rotert recorded her third double-double of her career with 10 rebounds and is the third SDSU player to have the honor in as many games.

“We’re really confident right now and playing well right now, offensively and defensively. We really believe in what we can do. We came together and we’ve really taken steps forward and think that shows,” Rotert said.