Jacks finish regular season at home

Landon Dierks, Sports Reporter

Aaron Johnston and the South Dakota State women’s basketball is right where it wants to be — in control of its own destiny in terms of winning the regular season conference title with one game remaining.

Before Sunday’s overtime win against rival South Dakota, SDSU defeated Purdue Fort Wayne on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Last week’s two wins extended the Jackrabbits’ streak to 12 consecutive games.

The Jackrabbits could make it 13 straight with a win on senior day — which will be the last time Madison Guebert, Macy Miller and Sydney Palmer will take the court at Frost Arena.

“That’s just such a special day,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said in his weekly update with GoJacks.com. “When you look at Sydney, Macy and Madi, three people who have contributed immensely to our program over the years … it’s a special, special group.”

Western Illinois (WIU)

Last meeting: SDSU won 93-84 on Dec. 28, 2018

Only one team stands between the South Dakota State women’s basketball team and the regular season title: Western Illinois University.

If the Jacks (22-6, 14-1) earn a win against the Leathernecks (12-15, 8-6) in the regular-season finale, the Summit League regular season title belongs to SDSU — its first since 2013-14.

Saturday’s contest in Brookings comes in the second game of a long trip for WIU. It travels to Denver on Thursday, Feb. 28, before its date with the Jacks.

WIU had a strong middle portion of its conference season, at one point winning seven of eight games, but dropped its last two at home before the season-ending road trip.

Coach JD Gravina’s squad has challenged the Jacks in recent years, and the teams’ first meeting this season was no different.

“We really struggled at their place,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said. “Their style is just tough for us to defend. They spread you out and have five people that can all shoot it, five people that can put it on the floor. We didn’t handle that combination of penetrating and kick and what they’re so good at.”

Defensively, the Leathernecks also force 21.1 turnovers per game, a mark that not only tops the Summit League but ranks top-20 in the entire country.

“Their defense can be disruptive. That zone that they sit in — they do a good job of turning people over and limiting shots,” Johnston said.

WIU Players to Watch: Olivia Kaufmann and Taylor Higginbotham

The dynamic pair of guards is a major reason why the Leathernecks are in the hunt for the third seed in next month’s conference tournament.

Kaufmann averages 15.9 points per game, the third-best mark in the Summit League. When paired with Higginbotham’s 14.0 point average, the two make up the second-best backcourt scoring punch in the conference — right behind Miller and Guebert.

Neither one is just focused on scoring either.

Higginbotham ranks fourth in the conference in rebounds per game (7.6). Kaufmann, too, rebounds well for a guard, averaging 5.1 boards per contest. Her 3.8 assists per game are also a team-high.

Opening tip is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, March 2 from Frost Arena.