Jacks remain perfect: Women’s basketball team remains undefeated

Skyler Jackson, Co-Sports Editor (He/Him)

The South Dakota State women’s basketball team’s undefeated conference record is on the line this weekend with two road games ahead against North Dakota and North Dakota State.

The Jackrabbits (18-5, 11-0 Summit League) are coming off double-digit wins against two teams at the bottom of the conference standings. They will face tougher competition this weekend, against two of the top five teams in the conference.

“We had another good weekend,” Jacks coach Aaron Johnston said. “I thought we played well in both games. We were just balanced enough to make enough shots to get a couple of wins.”

Their first game will be against UND Thursday in Grand Forks. The Fighting Hawks (12-8, 5-5) have had an up-and-down start to their Summit League schedule. They started off 2-0 before losing three-straight games to NDSU, USD and SDSU. Against the Jackrabbits at Frost Arena, the Hawks lost by 33 points in a 105-72 blowout.

The Fighting Hawks are 10-0 at home this season, including an 82-73 win over the second-place Bison Saturday.

They are third in the Summit League in scoring offense, averaging 72.6 points per game and are fifth in scoring defense, allowing 68.6 per game. Their scoring leader is Kacie Borowicz, who also leads the conference in scoring averaging 21.1 points per game. She also leads the team in assists (4.6 per game), while Joli Daninger is their leading rebounder (5.5 per game).

Following Thursday’s matchup with UND, the Jackrabbits will travel to Fargo Saturday to take on NDSU.

The Bison (13-7, 7-3) started their conference schedule strong with a 6-1 record. The one loss was a 31-point loss to the Jackrabbits Jan. 5 at Frost Arena.

They’ve since lost two of their last three games, both on the road against Oral Roberts and UND. Like the Fighting Hawks, the Bison are also undefeated at home this season at 8-0.

As a team, the Bison are averaging 71 points per game on offense, which is fourth in the Summit League. Defensively, they are third in the conference (66.8 points allowed per game) and overall, they are second in the conference, behind the Jackrabbits, in scoring margin (4.2 per game).

Their leader in points and assists is Heaven Hamling with 15.8 points per game and 3.7 assists per game, while their leader in rebounds is Emily Behnke with 6.8 per game.

“Now we switch gears, and we’re heading north for a really important road trip,” Johnston said. “Both North Dakota and North Dakota State have played well this year and they both do some things that cause us some problems. They’ll be a couple of good tests for us.”

Leading into their games this weekend, the Jackrabbits are coming off with dominant wins over St. Thomas and Western Illinois respectively.

The first win came Thursday at Frost Arena against St. Thomas. In that game, the Jackrabbits shot 65% from the field and 64% from the 3-point line, both season highs and four Jackrabbits scored in double-figures as they ran away with a 99-57 win.

They then hosted the Leathernecks two days later. The Jacks only led by six after three quarters but pulled away in the fourth quarter. They shot 58% from the field and went 6-for-8 from 3-point range in that final quarter, as they outscored WIU 32-15 to win by 23 points.

They are second in the conference in points scored per game (77) and first in points allowed per game (63.3). They are also first in the conference in field goal percentage (47%), which is also in the top 20 in the country.

Leading scorer and conference player of the year candidate Myah Selland scored 22 points against St. Thomas on 7-10 shooting and 18 points against Western Illinois. Her best performance of the season came in SDSU’s last game against UND Jan. 7. She matched her career-high of 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting and hit seven 3-pointers.

Paiton Burckhard also had a big night in that game against the Fighting Hawks, scoring 19 points on 8-for-10 from the field. Against Western Illinois last week, Burckhard suffered an early injury but came back to finish with 12 points in 15 minutes.

After two more Summit League wins, the first-place Jackrabbits remain unbeaten in the conference with a chance to finish the conference season without a loss for the second time in three years. But Johnston said that it’s not the team’s focus at this point in the season.

“Even then I don’t think we talked about it,” Johnston said. “I think we really tried to stay focused more on each week and try and approach it that way. I really don’t think that will creep into our mindset at all right now.”