Marcus TraxlerAssistant Sports Editor
Despite cold shooting from the outside, SDSU pounded the ball inside to defeat Hampton and advance to meet Big Ten challenger Purdue.
Shots weren’t falling from the outside for the Jackrabbit women’s basketball team in their Preseason WNIT 2nd round game against Hampton. So career nights from two of SDSU’s forwards certainly were well-timed.
A strong interior game, led by Jennie Sunnarborg and Leah Dietel carried the way for the Jacks in the victory over the Pirates, winning 76-64 at Frost Arena on Nov. 16.
“Our teammates were looking for both me and Leah tonight in the posts and we were making our shots, we figured why not keep going in to us,” said Sunnarborg.
SDSU leaned heavily on the play of Sunnarborg and Dietel to get the offense rolling in the first half. The duo teamed up to score the opening 12 points of the game for the Jackrabbits. Hampton was able to stay in the game mainly behind the play of Choicetta McMillen, who nailed four first half three pointers to keep the Pirates close. The game was tied until Kristin Rotert hit a jumper from the wing to give the Jacks a 35-33 lead at halftime.
The second half was close, with the Pirates pulling within one point with 10 minutes left. The Jacks were able to extend the lead behind layups by Steph Paluch, Jill Young, and Sunnarborg. SDSU’s solid free throw shooting kept the Pirates at bay in the waning moments of the game, as the Jackrabbits hit their final 14 free throws of the game.
“I think Hampton is a really good team. I think they have a lot of good pieces. They shot the ball well and can really rebound the ball well, so I think this was a good win for us,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston.
Sunnarborg recorded a career-high 24 points in the winning effort and Dietel pitched in with a career-high of her own, scoring 14.
“I’m excited about our post play. Just because of the pace of the game, we didn’t go as far into our bench. We just have a really good post group that really works hard and feeds off of each other,” said Johnston.
Dietel was also in charge of guarding Hampton standout and preseason MEAC player of the year, Quanneisha Perry, who was held to 10 points on the evening.
“She was definitely a key focus for the whole team and we were aware she was coming off of a big game and we collectively did a good job on her,” said Dietel.
The Jackrabbits struggled mightily from the outside, shooting 3 of 14 from beyond the arc.
“We shot the ball well, just not from the three point line and that’s ok. It’s not going to be there all the time. Our team just really responded and we kept going inside,” said Johnston.
Ashley Eide led the Jackrabbits with eight rebounds and Rotert and Young each had 13 points.
McMillen led Hampton (1-1) with 20 points and Melanie Warner added 15 in the loss.
SDSU (2-0) will travel to West Lafayette, Ind. to take the Purdue Boilermakers in the Preseason WNIT semifinals on Thursday. DePaul hosts Florida in the other semifinal and the championship game will be played on Sunday at a site to be determined.
“We’re really excited. We know they’re a good team and it should be fun to play a BCS school like that,” said Dietel.