Jacks’ 20th win anything but easy

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

On a night when their three leading scorers struggled, center Courtney Grimsrud and freshman reserve Maria Boever stepped up to propel the Jacks to a 61-59 victory over the Utah Valley State Wolverines. The victory was the 20th of the season for the Jacks, giving the team five 20-win seasons in the past six.

Victory number 20 was a hard fought battle though. Senior Megan Vogel struggled from the field, shooting only 2-12, after scoring at least 20 points in the past five games. The Jacks’ other two leading scorers, Jennifer Warkenthien and Andrea Verdegan, also struggled. The top three Jackrabbit scorers combined to shoot 8-33, and score 22 points, 13 less than the trio’s average.

Grimsrud and Boever picked up the slack for the Jacks. Grimsrud led the team with 13 points, while Boever chipped in 11 off the bench.

“I thought Courtney was great tonight,” said Head Coach Aaron Johnston.

Grimsrud’s performance was even more impressive given the opposition. She matched up against the Wolverines’ best player, Robyn Fairbanks. Fairbanks averages 23.9 points a game on the season, and led the Wolverines in scoring 21 points in the contest. Johnston said Fairbanks is one of the better post players they have faced all season.

Boever “played another great game,” according to Johnston.

He said Boever has played well the past five or six games, while averaging 14.3 points a game in the last four.

The contest against UVS was tight from the beginning, with the teams trading baskets for the first 10 minutes. The Wolverines were the first team to make a run in the game and to open up a lead. UVS took advantage of poor shooting by the Jacks to go on a 9-0 run, and take a seven-point lead. The Wolverines held the Jacks scoreless for more than five minutes during the run. The Jacks came back and closed the half with a run of their own, getting within one point on a 3-pointer by Ashlea Muckenhirn.

“The defense got out and was denying the ball harder (to end the half),” said Boever.

SDSU used a balanced scoring attack in the first half, with nine different players scoring. Johnston believed his team had good balance with who shot the ball, but not the type of shots. SDSU launched 18 threes in the first half, only making four. The Jacks shot only 17 two-point field goals.

“I thought we just settled (for threes),” said Johnston. “We didn’t find people around the basket.”

On their first possession of the second half, SDSU reclaimed the lead, but it would not last long. The lead changed nine different times before SDSU took the game’s largest lead, nine points. Fueled by four Grimsrud field goals, the Jacks went on a 10-0 run to lead, 51-42.

With a nine-point lead and the crowd roaring, SDSU appeared to be on their way to another easy victory. But the Wolverines were not done. They responded with a 13-2 run of their own to take back the lead. Julie McMurray scored eight points during the run, including a 3-pointer to put the Wolverines up, 55-53.

UVS led 59-57 with two minutes and 53 seconds left, but SDSU clamped down their defense and did not allow UVS to score again, while forcing three turnovers. Vogel clinched the game for the Jacks, nailing a shot from behind the arc with two minutes and 33 seconds left.

“Defensively I thought we were pretty good … we were disruptive,” said Johnston.

The Jacks did disrupt the Wolverine offense, forcing UVS to commit 23 turnovers. SDSU committed only 12 turnovers.

SDSU’s defensive pressure saved the team from a poor shooting performance. The Jacks shot only 28.6 percent in the first half and 36.9 percent on the game. The 3-point shooting was even worse, as the Jacks hit only 25 percent from downtown.

“We just weren’t aggressive attacking the basket,” said Johnston.

After four consecutive victories of more than 20 points, SDSU was tested down the stretch for the first time since they played UVS on Jan. 25.

“(It was) good to play in a close game,” said Johnston. He believes the rest of the games down the stretch will be close games.

The Jacks close out their home schedule against rival North Dakota State on Friday Feb. 23 at 7:00 p.m. in Frost Arena.