Jackrabbit women’s basketball joins elite company

Landon Dierks, Sports Editor


That’s how many of the 351 Division I women’s basketball programs have won at least 1,000 games in their histories, with South Dakota State becoming the most recent addition to that short list over Thanksgiving in Mexico.

The Jackrabbits’ 65-59 triumph over Notre Dame Nov. 29 at the Cancun Challenge was win No. 1,000.

“This one feels really special,” junior Tylee Irwin said after the game. “Against such a good team and in such a special place. It’s really exciting and I’m really happy for our team.”

Coincidentally, Notre Dame was the most recent member of the 1,000-win club before SDSU, reaching the milestone in the first game of its 2019-20 season back on Nov. 5.

Add in the holiday atmosphere, the tournament’s location in a popular vacation destination and the contingent of Jackrabbit Nation that traveled to support the team across the three-day tournament, and that is a win that won’t be soon forgotten.

“These are shared experiences between teammates, coaching staff and fans as well — they’re here sharing in this memory,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston of the Cancun trip and milestone win. “A lot of them were here today and they’ll remember a good win against Notre Dame. They’ll remember it being the 1,000th win, and it’ll be something that stays with them for a while.”

Johnston was also quick to mention everything that has led his program to the 1,000 win mark.

“A lot of people — coaches, athletes, administrators — over the years have helped make that possible,” Johnston said in a radio interview following the milestone victory. “It doesn’t happen with one recruiting class or one coaching staff or one athletic director. It happens with a variety of people over many years.”

While that’s true, there’s no denying Johnston’s profound impact on the program. He has a career win percentage of .749 — winning 474 games spanning the past 20-plus seasons. In 19 complete seasons as the Jacks’ head coach, Johnston has averaged nearly 24.5 wins per season.

The two Jackrabbits who have been with the program the longest, Megan Bultsma and Tagyn Larson, have only been in Brookings long enough to see 82 wins. But things like age and experience don’t matter.

All the members of the current roster, as well as every Jackrabbit dating back to the program’s first season in 1966, can enjoy this achievement as a culmination of 53 years of work.

To be in that group is a great honor, but it encompasses an awful lot of people,” Johnston said. “Everybody that follows women’s basketball and our program should be really proud today.”