Women’s basketball struggles in loss to Creighton

Landon Dierks, Sports Editor

OMAHA, Neb. — There’s an old basketball adage that goes something like, “Live by the 3, die by the 3.”

A strong case could be made Creighton women’s basketball is the embodiment of that exact premise.

Behind 10 3-point makes, five from senior forward Jaylyn Agnew, Creighton downed South Dakota State 61-48 Tuesday night at D.J. Sokol Arena.

Of the Bluejays’ 57 shot attempts, 31 were from long range. They shot just 35% overall and 32% on 3s, but made up for the relatively poor shooting in other ways. Creighton won the turnover battle 15-10, grabbed 13 offensive rebounds to the Jackrabbits’ six and shot 11-of-15 from the free throw line. Agnew contributed a game-high 23 points, adding four rebounds and five assists as she played all 40 minutes.

In the end, that was all the home team needed to come away with a 13-point win.

“I think disappointing is a good word to use,” said junior forward Myah Selland, who led the Jacks with 14 points. “We’ve had two really tough games to start the season, but we’re going to go back and look at a lot of things that we can do better and improve on moving forward.”

At no point did the Jacks ever have a moment of comfort. They led by eight early in the second quarter, but Creighton caught up and tied the game by the quarter’s media timeout.

Halftime was perhaps the peak of SDSU’s stat-sheet advantage. The Jacks boasted a shooting percentage 25% better than that of their opposition, but that had only translated to a 29-25 edge on the scoreboard.

SDSU Director of Basketball Operations Kristin Rotert offered an explanation as to why the stats and score didn’t seem to match up in a halftime radio interview.

“What it came down to was fouls,” Rotert said. “The fouls and the timeliness of the fouls really took us out of rhythm and gave them some easy baskets. We were moving the ball well, getting good looks, but we fouled at the wrong times and lost rhythm offensively.”

Rotert ended her halftime remarks with, “hopefully, it’s a little bit cleaner second half.”

But that wouldn’t be the case. In fact, things got worse after the break.

Creighton came out and made six of its first seven shot attempts of the second half, forced three turnovers to surge ahead 39-33 courtesy of a 12-0 run. SDSU would tie the game at 39, but the home team’s third quarter push wasn’t over.

Three different Bluejays knocked down 3-pointers on back-to-back-to-back possessions to push Creighton back out to a 48-43 lead entering the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t play very well defensively,” said SDSU coach Aaron Johnston in a postgame radio interview. “First half we were okay, I know the percentages look good — they missed some open shots, but we missed a lot of defensive assignments that we worked hard on and talked up. That third quarter was probably the worst 10 minutes of defense I’ve seen from us this year whether it be practices, scrimmages or games. We just kind of fell apart.”

Then, in the early moments of the fourth quarter, scoring stopped.

With Creighton trying to extend the lead and SDSU attempting to make a comeback, the score held at 53-47 for more than four minutes as neither team could find the bottom of the net.

Selland finally hit a free throw with just over three minutes remaining to break the scoreless drought, but SDSU continued to struggle all the way until the final buzzer as Creighton went on an 8-0 run to end the game.

All told, SDSU failed to make a shot from the field in the final seven-plus minutes of the contest. The field goal percentage edge also evaporated over the course of the second half, as SDSU shot 39% and was just 2-for-13 on 3-point attempts.

“At times we made things look easy, and other times they looked incredibly hard,” Johnston said. “We’re still trying to find our way a little bit offensively — you’re not going to win many games scoring 48 points. Overall, you hold them to 61 points and they shoot 35% from the field — that’s not our biggest issue.”

The Bluejays employed a defensive strategy SDSU is likely to see with regularity this season. Creighton packed the middle of the floor and forced the Jacks to take jumpers instead of working the ball inside to take advantage of their size.

“That’s something we’re going to have to work on and get a lot better at,” Selland said. “We have a lot of players who can finish around the basket so we know that’s what teams are going to want to stop. We’re going to have to be better at own our ground down there and showing why we’re so powerful (around the basket).”

Just as it was against Drake in the season opener Nov. 8, Selland and sophomore forward Paiton Burckhard, who had 12 points, were the only SDSU players to reach double figures.

Johnston realizes this may be his team’s reality in the early going with the team still trying to find its rhythm with a core of primary options.

“Certainly, I think our team has the potential to be very good, but we haven’t played well enough to be very good yet,” Johnston said. “… I think our team is going to have to fight harder. They’re going to have to realize this is kind of a different year and we’re going to have to make some adjustments. Last year we could probably score enough points to cover some of these things up, but we haven’t done that so far, so we’ll have to get better.”

Next up for the Jacks is a neutral site matchup with Dakota Wesleyan of the NAIA. The game will tip off after the conclusion of the SDSU wrestling dual also scheduled for Friday, Nov. 15, at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.