Big second half propels Jacks past Westerwinds

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

It was far from pretty, but the SDSU women’s basketball team proved they could win ugly and they can win big.

The Jacks turned a five-point halftime lead into a 52-31 rout – thanks in part to a 12-0 run that spanned the halves – of Western Illinois on Feb. 7 in Macomb, Ill.

SDSU played much of the game without three-time Summit League Player of the Week Jennifer Warkenthien; the senior was in foul trouble much of the game.

The Jacks were just 2-of-11 from the floor in the first 11 minutes and committed seven turnovers in that time frame, but the defense kept them in it. The Westerwinds struggled from the floor, and the Jacks were able to stay within seven and survive the sluggish start.

“When you can score 52 points and still win by 20, that says a lot about your defense, and that’s what tonight was about for us,” said Jacks head coach Aaron Johnston. “The last couple games defensively, we didn’t feel we were great. I’m proud of them that they took it upon themselves to dig in.”

The Jacks blew the game open in the second half, starting on a 19-6 run that turned a tight game into a blowout. Defense was the factor again, as the Westerwinds shot just 20 percent from the floor in the second half and 26 percent for the game.

The Jacks’ strong offensive attack struggled for much of the game. Sophomore Macie Michelson led the Jacks with eight points, the first time all year the Jacks did not have a player score in double digits.

“We worked our butts off defensively,” WIU head coach Leslie Crane said. “It’s just frustrating as a coach. ? I’ve never had a team where I have to tell them to score. It’s like nobody wants to score.”

That showed in the second half, as the Westerwinds scored just 11 points in the half; the Jacks had put up 11 points five minutes into the half.

With Warkenthien battling foul trouble, the Jacks were able to rely on some of the lesser known players. A very balanced attack helped the Jacks survive without the Conference Player of the Year candidate, as seven players scored over five points.

“That’s what good teams do: they are going to find a way to score,” Crane said. “I thought we took their first, second and third options away from them the majority of the time. Their fourth and fifth option kind of got us at times.”

It was not pretty, but the Jacks survived and stayed a game up in first place in the Summit League.