Crucial showdown looms

Jackrabbit women host Coyotes for first-place tie


Joclyn Haven

Senior Tylee Irwin drives past a defender in a win earlier in the season agasint Western Illinois. Irwin scored 10 points in the Jacks’ 16-point win over the Bison last Saturday. She is averaging 9.3 ppg on the year.

Evan Patzwald, Assistant Sports Editor

The South Dakota Showdown Series between USD and SDSU takes place for the second game this season Saturday, this time at Frost Arena.

Both teams are dominating the Summit League just past the midway point in the conference schedule. The Coyotes sit atop the conference undefeated at 11-0, with the Jackrabbits just behind them at 10-1, which makes the game between the two rivals that much more important. The winner of the game will likely decide who is going to win the league at the rate the two are playing.

SDSU is beating Summit League opponents by an average of 25.1 points in their 10 conference wins. USD is one of the hottest teams in the nation, riding a 16-game win streak and undefeated in the Summit. In their 11 wins, they are beating their conference opponents by an average of 23.6 points.

Below those two, there is a bit of a drop off in the standings as Kansas City sits at third place at 5-4.

“I think the difference in our league is not so much the other teams are good or bad, the difference is the top two teams in our league are just that good,” coach Aaron Johnston said.

 In their matchup back on Jan. 8, the Coyotes dominated the Jackrabbits for the final three quarters, winning the game 65-42 after the game was knotted up at 20 after the first quarter.

SDSU was held to their season-low in scoring, only putting up 42 points against USD’s stifling defense. There was also not a single Jackrabbit player to score in double figures, for the first time since Jan. 2, 2014. After scoring 20 in the first 10 minutes, the visiting Jacks only squared 10 points total in the next two quarters, while USD scored 32 points in that same span.

Johnston said that his team is hungry to get another shot at the ‘Yotes and to play good basketball against them.

“We understand the importance of this game,” Johnston said. “We’re playing against a team that’s undefeated in the Summit League right now, they’re one game in front of us, against an in-state rival and against a team where there’s a ton of history.” 

South Dakota has the best defense in the Summit League, only allowing 51.4 points per game. Runner-up to them is SDSU with 55.1 points per game allowed.

Myah Selland is coming off her best game of the season as she paced the Jacks with 23 points in the 76-60 win over North Dakota State last weekend. 15 of her 23 points were in the third quarter.

The Jacks are trying to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year and ninth time in the last 11 years. They would likely need to win the Summit League Tournament to get in, as they likely won’t be able to secure another at-large bid like last season due to them going 4-7 in their non conference schedule. It was one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, but they would’ve needed to win a few more of the close games they had to have their resume reflect how good of a team they are.

“We were so close to getting through our schedule with a couple more wins, and when I look at our team right now, we’re playing really well,” Johnston said. “I think we’re an NCAA Tournament-caliber team for sure. This is a team that’s got a ton of talent and potential, but I say that knowing that I don’t know if we did enough in November and December to get there.”

The rivals tip off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Frost Arena. The game will be broadcast on Midco Sports Network, along with ESPN+.