For the second game in a row, the Jackrabbits struggled shooting the ball, played excellent defense and won a Women’s National Invitation Tournament, defeating the Indiana Hoosiers, 60-53.
Even though the majority 6,053 fans in attendance were Jackrabbit fans, it was the Hoosiers who started the game out strong, jumping out to a 10-3 lead. The Jacks whittled the lead down to three points and the crowd was on edge, ready to erupt, but they could not.
Indiana prevented the crowd from slipping into a frenzy. The Hoosiers scored 10 points in less than two minutes, building their largest lead of the game, 13 points.
SDSU broke the run when Indiana center, 6-foot-7 Sarah McKay, picked up her second foul of the half. Freshman forward Maria Boever sank two free throws to begin a 12-0 run by the Jacks, bringing them to within one, 24-23.
McKay getting her second and foul, and being forced to the bench, was a pivotal moment in the game for both teams.
“Her going down ? that was a tough situation,” Indiana Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack said.
Despite playing a sloppy first half, SDSU only trailed by three at halftime, 31-28. The Jacks committed more turnovers, 14, than made field goals, eight. Free throw shooting and tough defense kept the Jackrabbits in the game. SDSU sank nine of nine free throws and forced IU into 11 turnovers.
“I think once we calmed down, once we started running transition lanes, and just playing our style of basketball we came back and relaxed a little bit ? (we) ended up playing pretty well the rest of the way,” senior forward Megan Vogel said.
The Jacks knew they needed to play better in the second half if they wanted extend their season.
“At halftime, we were like, okay, if we don’t get the job done, we’re done. There’s no tomorrow, so we just said put everything out on the floor ? and do whatever we can to win,” junior guard Andrea Verdegan said.
SDSU scored first in the second half. They took their first lead of the game a minute later on layup by Vogel.
The teams battled closely the rest of the game. The lead changed hands seven times, the scored was tied four times and the largest lead was six during the second half.
Even though the game was close, SDSU players stepped up and made plays when they needed to, especially Vogel.
“It’s my senior year. It could have been my last game. There’s no question I wanted the win or the loss on my shoulders,” Vogel said.
Vogel delivered for the Jacks, connecting on a layup with 1:20 remaining to give the Jacks a two-point lead.
“She made a really big time play right there to score along the baseline,” SDSU Head Coach Aaron Johnston said.
Vogel’s layup turned out to be the game-winner for the Jacks, as Indiana failed to score the final two minutes and 28 seconds of the game.
For the second game in a row, the Jacks scored the final eight points of the game.
“When it comes time to win a game, this team is very, very good and they’ve done that a lot this year ? we’ve been in a lot of close games,” Johnston said.
Down the stretch, free throws iced the game for the Jacks. SDSU went more than 10 minutes without a field goal and only made one field goal down the last 11 and a half minutes of the game.
Sophomore Jen Warkenthien and Verdegan each nailed two free throws in the final minute to secure the victory. The Jacks shot 75 percent from the line for the game.
The second ugly win in a row shows this year’s squad wins, no matter what.
“We’re all kind of scrappy and we all hate to lose so together we just find a way to win,” Verdegan said.
In addition to proving they know how to win, the Jacks proved their toughness, coming back from a 13-point lead.
“The thing I’ll really take from it (the game) ? is getting down by double figures in the first half and having enough toughness to come back,” Johnston said. “Their poise was very good.”
Defensive again played a huge roll for the Jacks in their win. After giving up 24 points in the first 12 minutes, SDSU held Indiana to just 29 points during the last 28 minutes of the game.
“I thought we really just played a lot harder. I think we felt like our backs were against the wall and if we didn’t make a stand early in that half, I think the score would have really gotten worse for us?if it got any bigger it would have been tough to come back so I think the team played with just a lot more urgency,” Johnston said. “If we don’t play defense in this game, we probably (would have gotten) beat by double figures.”
The Jacks play University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. on Sunday, March 25 at 2 p.m. Mountain Time (3 p.m. Central).
#1.883619:4260086657.jpg:cornemanfreethrowjacksvsindiana.jn.jpg:Freshman Ketty Cornemann shoots one of the many clutch free throws the Jacks hit to secure the win.: