Jackrabbits found themselves in first place midway through Summit League

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

Midway through their first season in the Summit League, the SDSU women’s basketball team finds itself near the top of the conference standings.

The big story early in the season was the injury bug that bit pre-season Summit League second team all-conference forward Jennifer Warkenthien and sophomore center Laura Nielsen. Two games into the season, Stacie Oistad went down with a similar foot injury just after scoring a career-high 22 points against UC Riverside.

Speaking of the UC Riverside game, it was the most dramatic game of the season only two games in. The Highlanders, who have made the last two NCAA tournaments, forced overtime with a basket with 36 seconds remaining to tie the game at 70. To force the game into a second overtime, junior Morgan Meier beat the clock with a lay-up with no time remaining to make the score tied at 84. The Jacks would finish off UC Riverside 93-90 in the second overtime winning the first double overtime game since 1983. Oistad would miss the next nine games. Senior guard, Andrea Verdegan, would tally a career-high in assists with ten.

On Nov. 23, the Jackrabbits would suffer their first defeat of season by losing to the 15th ranked George Washington Colonials 65-60 at the G.W. Thanksgiving Tournament. A victory over Southern Illinois the next afternoon would put SDSU at 5-1, the team’s best start since 2003.

The end of November would be the start of a bump in the road as SDSU would lose four of their next five games, all on the road. During this stretch, the Jacks would lose their first ever Summit League game to Oakland, 67-57, but get their first conference win two days later at Centenary, 67-51. Warkenthien would return to action on the road trip and in only her fourth game back, she was the only Jackrabbit in double figures in points, netting a career-high 24 in a 65-62 loss to Valparaiso.

With the Jacks being on the brink of .500 at 6-5, a four game home stretch was just what was needed. The home stand ended with two Summit League wins, the first coming against IPFW 68-62. Sophomore forward Maria Boever led the Jacks with a double-double of 15 points and a career-high 12 rebounds Two days later on Jan. 7, SDSU would defeat Summit League co-leader Oakland (Mich.) 81-71 behind a career-high 21 points from Verdegan. During the four-game home stand, the Jackrabbits never trailed for even a second.

In the first twelve games of this season, as they did all of last season, the Jacks would split the next two games on the road: a win at IUPUI and a loss at Western Illinois.

The next home game would see the Jacks’ stingiest defensive effort of the last two years as they limited Southern Utah to 35 points on 37 percent shooting in a 41 point win, the largest of the season thus far. Two more conference wins against UMKC and on Jan. 26 at North Dakota State was enough to pull within a half game of Western Illinois for the Summit League lead.

Freshman Kristin Rotert has added instant offense off of the bench this season by leading the team in scoring a team high seven times as well as setting the SDSU freshman record for three-pointers in a season. Rotert is third on the team averaging 10.3 points per game, just trailing Boever at 12.9 ppg and Warkenthein who averages 13.2 ppg.

Two conference road games at Oakland and IPFW will be tough as both teams will be trying to avoid being swept by the Rabbits this season. The Jacks currently stand at 14-6 with a conference record of 7-2.

After a tough five weeks with seven straight games away from Frost Arena, SDSU has five of their last seven at the rabbit den. The Jacks have compiled an 88-7 record at home since the beginning of the 2002 season. Finishing atop the Summit League regular season standings will result in a return trip to the WNIT where SDSU got to the quarter-finals last season.

After coming home from Oakland(Mich.) and IPFW The Jackrabbits will return to Frost Arena to face Western Illinois on Feb. 9 to face fellow co-Summit League leader at 5 p.m. After WIU, SDSU will face IUPUI on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.