Jacks crush overmatched Mastodons

Landon Dierks, Sports Editor

When the South Dakota State and Purdue Fort Wayne women’s basketball teams met on the hardwood Jan. 12, the Jackrabbits put up 100 points and won by 31.

Saturday afternoon’s final score might not have been quite as gaudy, but the Jacks were no less dominant, cruising to an 89-43 win over the Mastodons at Frost Arena — SDSU’s 24th consecutive win in the series (36-1 overall).

The win comes less than 48 hours after SDSU was upset but Denver, providing a welcomed bounce-back and confidence boost from the recent letdown.

“I thought we played in the present here and didn’t let a disappointing Thursday turn into a disappointing Saturday,” SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said. “We just cleaned the slate, came back and played much better.”

PFW may be sitting at the bottom of the league standings, but Denver, while undoubtedly a more talented side than the struggling Mastodons, sat just two places higher prior to Thursday’s upset win. That left the Jacks to reflect on recent poor showings at home and figure out ways to improve moving forward.

“We talked about the things we can control,” said sophomore forward Paiton Burckhard. “There’s a lot of things that go on in the game of basketball that you can’t necessarily control, so just finishing plays, making extra effort plays and building off of each other and each other’s energy is what we focused on.”

That conversation must have done wonders for the team’s demeanor and confidence, at least in the short term, because the difference between the two on-court products was quite stark despite such a short turnaround.

To say the Jackrabbits (19-8, 11-2 Summit League) bullied PFW (5-21, 1-12 Summit) in the paint is a severe understatement. At halftime, 38 of SDSU’s 45 points had come from the painted area. By the final whistle, SDSU points in the paint advantage was an astounding 62-2.

“We’ve been working on that (getting the ball inside) all season, but it also comes from our guards doing really well on the outside and creating open space inside,” Burckhard said. “… I think we did an all-around pretty good job today.”

Four Jackrabbits reached double figures in scoring, led by Burckhard’s 23 points. Joining her were Tylee Irwin (16), Megan Bultsma (11) and Tori Nelson (11).

“For us, it’s more about reiterating things they (the players) already see and feel and want to improve on,” Johnston said. “They did a good job of that and now it will be important to do that again this week. It’s a big week for us and we want to build on that.”

Only three games remain in SDSU’s regular season, the first of which is against the University of North Dakota at 7 p.m. Feb. 20, in Grand Forks.

Feb. 22, is the final home game of the Jacks’ season when they’ll host the University of South Dakota for Senior Day at 2 p.m.