Jackrabbits ?must play better? down stretch

Marcus Traxler

Marcus TraxlerAssistant Sports Editor

Every season has its ups and downs. The downs have outnumbered the ups so far for the SDSU women’s basketball team.

The Jackrabbits have struggled with all sorts of obstacles and are quickly falling behind in the Summit League race, dropping three of their first four conference games. SDSU’s win over Centenary on Jan. 10 moved the Jacks to 2-3 in the Summit and may provide some confidence.

“It was tough. We just got content with [losing] and we didn’t know how to change it,” said Jennie Sunnarborg about losing four straight home games for the first time in over 25 years.

The team that was picked to finish second in the Summit League has been hit by injuries, a rash of turnovers, and the inability to win close games early in the season.

Four losses have been within seven points or less and have lost a total of 10 games by an average of 12.8 points per game.

“I think we can build confidence from playing well. We can gain confidence from beating Centenary or losing to Oral Roberts or practicing well. We have to find the things we do well and build on those,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said.

When SDSU has played well, they’ve shined. Their six wins have come by an average of 24.8 points per game. It has been tough for fans to see the Jacks struggling, even though they are facing the 87th toughest schedule in Division I.

SDSU has been without their rebounding leader Leah Dietel, who has missed the last seven games with a foot injury. Although she’s back in the lineup, Macie Michelson missed time to open the season and did not travel to Southern Utah and UMKC due to sickness.

Outside of Dietel’s injury, the post play for the Jacks has been good, with Sunnarborg and Katie Lingle playing well inside. Sunnarborg is the Jackrabbits’ leading scorer, averaging 13.3 points per game and leads the conference in field goal percentage at 57 percent.

“We’ve been really pleased with what our lineup has looked like with Katie in there right now and then when you have Katie and Jennie in there together, it’s just a much bigger lineup and gives us a bigger presence inside,” Johnston said.

SDSU is tops in the Summit League in team field goal percentage and ranks second in field goal defense. However, the Jacks average 19.5 turnovers per game, the highest average since 2002.

“We need to win the next game. That sounds simple and foolish but ultimately that’s what we have to do. We’ve had some games where we’ve played well and just haven’t followed it up. Basketball is very much a momentum sport and we’ve got to keep the momentum going,” Johnston said.

This season, the Jackrabbits haven’t played up to the level that they have set since moving to Division I but Johnston reminds that there is plenty of basketball to be played until the Summit League Tournament in March.

“Ultimately, we have to play better basketball and that’s we’ve stayed focused on every single day and we’ll keep working on it.”