Sioux Falls Summit Showdown

Marcus Traxler

Marcus TraxlerAssistant Sports Editor

The third-seeded Jackrabbits will began their run at another NCAA bid Sunday against NDSU.

Technically, it’s a clean slate.

SDSU, however, would be better off if they weren’t starting over.

Winners eight of their last nine games, the Jackrabbits will try to ride their recent momentum to win three-in-a-row when they open the first round of the Summit League Tournament against rival North Dakota State on Sunday in Sioux Falls at 2:30 p.m.

This second-half surge has revitalized a squad that was at one point 4-9 overall and staring at a bottom-division finish in the conference, before coming back to capture the number three seed in this weekend’s tournament.

“They’re playing really well and success has helped them. They’ll feel better about our offense, our defense, about what their capable of but ultimately, what we’ve done in the last few weeks doesn’t guarantee us anything in Sioux Falls,” said Jackrabbit head coach Aaron Johnston.

“I think we’re playing our best basketball that we’ve played all year and I think we’re playing a lot better together. Defensively, we’ve been a lot tougher and definitely have been playing with a lot more intensity lately,” said junior guard Jill Young.

“We’re very confident and happy with how we’re playing lately. The big thing for us is that we know we need to continue to take steps forward and we still have to get to another level in the tournament,” said senior forward Kristin Rotert.

The Jacks will meet the sixth-seeded Bison in Sioux Falls for the second time in eight days, something that is unique but not worrisome for SDSU.

“We want to go back and improve and make some adjustments but at the same point you don’t want to overdo things because we have been playing well and you don’t want to tinker too much. We need to figure out what we did well up in Fargo and do that more often and make a few minor adjustments to our defense, trying to stay with the same formula,” Johnston said.

Oral Roberts is the tournament’s number one seed but is without stellar guard Jaci Bigham, leading many to believe that the title is still up for grabs. The Jackrabbits will hold an obvious advantage when it comes to supporters in the seats.

“We hope it’s an advantage. Not many teams get to play 45 minutes away from their hometown. Our fans have been good for us in the past and good for the women’s tournament overall,” said Johnston.

Johnston says that who they face in the tournament isn’t important to him. After SDSU defeated the Mastodons on Feb. 21, IPFW coach Chris Paul said he hopes the two meet again.

“We just need to figure out how to win a game and get a chance to play the next one. Whether it’s pretty, whether it’s ugly, it doesn’t matter. You just try to have one point than the other team at this point.”

“For us, we don’t really care about that. We’re going to take on whoever is next on our schedule and prepare for them and play well against them. There’s no one in the league that we’re hoping to avoid and no one we’re hoping to play,” Rotert said.

Conference tournaments are known for yielding unpredictably and the Jacks will need to be ready for anything if they want to make it three straight Summit League Championships.

“I think we need to be ready for anything and any situation. Last year, we had to win an overtime game in the championship. The year before that, we had to come back from 10 down in the first half. We’ve had some good experiences, so we should be prepared,” Johnston said.

“We’ve got raise our level of play and be ready to play three games in a row. If we get to Tuesday, we’ll be ready to play then,” Young said.

Editor’s note: Marcus Traxler will post daily updates from the Summit League tournament here.