A historic run: SDSU falls to Baylor 60-58

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

A Sweet 16 berth was right there for the SDSU women’s basketball team, but Baylor’s Kelli Griffin would not let them have it.

Griffin, who had a game-high 21 points, hit a short jumper with only half-a-second left to lift the Bears to a 60-58 victory in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament March 24 in Lubbock, Texas.

“I knew I could get down the court in that amount of time; I just didn’t know if I could get the shot off,” said Griffin in the post-game press conference. “But I went in with the mentality to score instead of to just get fouled, which most people do, and luckily, it went in for me.”

With the Jacks down two, senior Jennifer Warkenthien found a cutting Jill Young for a lay-up that would knot it at 58 apiece with 7.8 seconds left. The 7.8 seconds was half-a-second too much to leave Griffin, as the guard was able to penetrate the Jackrabbit defense for the game winner.

“We talked about it, she had a great game,” SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said. “I thought we defended it well. It was a tough shot and she made it, and it went in their favor. Looking back on it, I don’t think we could have done something different; she made a difficult shot.”

Two days after tying the NCAA tournament record for 3-pointers, the Jacks struggled behind the arc. The Jacks shot 3-of-15 from deep and never could find their rhythm from three-point land, thanks in part to the Baylor defense. The Baylor defense forced 14 Jackrabbit turnovers, converting them into 18 points.

“They are so hard to defend,” Baylor guard Melissa Jones said. “Every player there can play every position on the floor so it’s so hard and you just have to do whatever you can do defend them.”

Early on it looked like another Jackrabbit rout as SDSU jumped out to a 22-8 lead, with all but two of the points coming from the free-throw line. It would become a familiar theme for the night, as half of Baylor’s points in the first half would come from the free-throw line.

“The first half things were going our way, and foul trouble was the biggest issue we faced,” said Johnston. “Defensively, first half we were excellent; foul trouble got us in trouble in the first half.”

Jennifer Warkenthien led the Jacks with 18 points, as the Summit League Player of the Year was the only SDSU player to score in double digits.

The Jacks finish their season with a 32-3 record. Only the unbeaten University of Connecticut has more wins. It was a historic season for the Jacks, as they tied the record for wins in a season, entered the top 25 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today’s Coaches Poll for the first time and became only the second team to make the Women’s NCAA Tournament in their first year of eligibility.

“I hope it continues to raise awareness about South Dakota State and basketball at South Dakota State,” Johnston said. “I think it has a program-building impact and a motivating impact. It was tough to get here, getting here this season was immensely difficult. I don’t know the percentage; to only lose three times out of 35 games is incredible. I hope it serves as a motivating factor for our future players. It’s a whole different thing to walk off the floor and want to do the work to get back here.”

The Jacks wave goodbye to four seniors in Jennifer Warkenthien, Ashlea Muckenhirn, Stacie Oistad and Morgan Meier.

“You have an incredible rush of emotions; you can’t say one or the other,” Muckenhirn said. “At that single moment, obviously you will remember the game, but at the same time, you walk off the court knowing these people you spend every day with become your best friends and your family. Don’t let the last-second shot or one play hold you back from the memories of all the good that happens. There will be a time when we can look back and reflect on all the good that happened.”

#1.881762:3761137417.jpg:SDSU.Baylor.WBB.COURTESY.CMYK.jpg:Junior guard Ketty Cornemann (22) leaps for a shot past Baylor freshman guard Morghan Medlock (55) in the first half of the March 24 second-round NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament game in Lubbock, Texas.:Courtesy photo by Elisha Page / Argus Leader