The Collegian

Jackrabbits fall in Sweet 16

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Jackrabbits fall in Sweet 16

Landon Dierks, Sports Reporter

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PORTLAND, Ore. — A run to the Elite 8 wasn’t destined to be.

South Dakota State’s historic run in the NCAA Tournament ended in a 63-53 defeat at the hands of Oregon Friday night inside the Moda Center.

“It’s a tough one tonight, but that doesn’t take anything away from the phenomenal and special season that this team had this year,” Guebert said. “To make it to the Sweet 16 and make history like that is something that none of us are ever going to forget.”

Knocking off the AP No. 7 and second-seeded Ducks (32-4) wasn’t going to be an easy feat, to begin with. More than 11,300 fans were on hand to witness the Sweet 16 matchup, the vast majority donning green and yellow, creating a virtual home court less than two hours from Oregon’s campus in Eugene.

The Jackrabbits (28-7) held Oregon’s high-powered offense well below its season average of 87 points per game (the third-best mark in the nation), but the South Dakota State offense was lacking all night long.

“Defensively we did everything right we wanted to,” SDSU senior Macy Miller said. “Offensively it stinks because we struggled today. I wish shots would have fallen for us, but not tonight.”

SDSU shot just 26.7 percent for the game, dooming its chances of upsetting the Ducks.

“I thought we played hard enough to win,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said. “Did a lot of good things. We held a team that scores an awful lot of points to 63. If you would have asked me that at the beginning of the day if that would be a good thing, the answer would be yes.”

The Jackrabbits entered the game winning 22 of their last games when they won the rebounding battle, but a 47-44 advantage on the glass was not enough the 23rd time around. It was the first time all season that the Jackrabbits dropped a game where they won the rebounding battle.

Of the 47 SDSU rebounds, 20 were offensive, but the work to get extra possessions didn’t translate to an advantage on the scoreboard. The Jacks were plus-12 in offensive rebounds but managed just five more second-chance points.

Along with out playing its opposition where it mattered, advancing to a third consecutive Elite 8 was just a matter of determination for Oregon.

“I mean, we’ve been thinking about this opportunity since our last loss last year to Notre Dame,” junior Sabrina Ionescu said. “This is what we work for, this is what we dream of. Now it’s time to make our dreams a reality.”

That quest to make Oregon’s dreams come true started with shutting down SDSU’s normally efficient offense. The Jacks’ struggles were apparent shortly after the ball was tipped.

A frenetic pace defined the first moments of the game. It appeared both teams wanted to get out in transition, but neither was particularly successful. After the first five minutes, SDSU held a slight 9-7 advantage.

Senior Madison Guebert hit a 3-pointer with 4:29 left in the opening quarter to push the score to 12-8, but the Jacks wouldn’t score another point until the second quarter.

Instead, Oregon put together a 10-0 run to cap the opening 10 minutes, including a stretch of four made jump shots from Ionescu. The star junior came close to notching her 19th career triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

The second quarter didn’t go much better for the cold-shooting Jacks. After a 4-for-17 mark from the field in the first quarter, SDSU shot just 4-for-22 in the second. The 20.5 percent shooting effort was a stark contrast to the Ducks’ 43.3 percent clip.

“One thing that concerns you about South Dakota State is their ability to beat you three at a time,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “I thought by playing man [defense], we cut down on their opportunities. They didn’t have as many good looks out there.”

SDSU couldn’t muster any comeback effort in the third quarter to chip away at the Duck lead as a 31-22 halftime deficit grew to 49-34 entering the final 10 minutes.

The Jacks looked determined to play it out, pushing for more points with just seconds left. It just wasn’t enough in the end.

Oregon junior Ruthy Hebard was the star of the evening, racking up 24 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore Satou Sabally scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds to join Hebard and Ionescu in double figures.

 

While the trio of Ducks carried their team on to Sunday, the college careers of SDSU’s three seniors (Miller, Guebert and Sydney Palmer) ended with Friday’s final buzzer.

Miller ended her collegiate career with 21 points on 6-for-18 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two assists.

In Guebert’s final game wearing the blue and yellow, the normally reliable sharpshooter shot 1-for-7 and scored just three points.

Palmer was held scoreless in her seven minutes of action.

While the season ended sooner than they would’ve liked, it doesn’t diminish the unprecedented success SDSU had this season.

“It’s a tough one tonight, but that doesn’t take anything away from the phenomenal and special season that this team had this year,” Guebert said. “To make it to the Sweet 16 and make history like that is something that none of us are ever going to forget.”

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