Jackrabbit women overcome slow start to beat St. Thomas, advance to semifinals


Dave Eggen/Inertia

Jackrabbit forward Myah Selland drives the ball on St. Thomas’ Autam Mendez March 4 in the Summit League Tournament at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

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

SIOUX FALLS – The South Dakota State women’s basketball team is moving on in the Summit League Tournament after defeating No. 8 seed St. Thomas 87-59 in the quarterfinals Saturday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

The top-seeded Jackrabbits (26-5) overcame a sluggish start and dominated the rest of the way to beat the Tommies (13-17) for the third time this season.

But it didn’t look great at first for the Jacks. They were playing a Tommies team coming off a first-round win over Western Illinois and entering Saturday with momentum. As a result, the heavily favored Jackrabbits started the game slowly. They turned the ball over seven times and trailed the Tommies 18-14 at the end of the first quarter.

Midway through that first quarter, Brooklyn Meyer, Kallie Theisen and Madison Mathiowetz entered the game to try and give the Jackrabbits a spark. Coach Aaron Johnston said he wanted to get everybody involved early in the game.

“I do think there’s always early nerves,” Johnston said. “It is different when teams play a game before you have, usually you have that both teams kind of feeling out that first quarter. I think regardless of what the score was we probably would have tried to get everybody going in that direction.”

Paige Meyer helped give them one early in the second quarter. Meyer finished with 14 points and three assists in 22 minutes. It was her first appearance in the conference tournament after sitting out last year’s tournament due to injury.

“I thought (Meyer) was fantastic and you saw her get to the basket in the first half,” Johnston said. “She’s hard to guard and I’ll be honest, we don’t push her into those situations. We’re just like ‘hey, beat your defender,’ but she has that ability to really take over a game.”

The Jacks then opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run to take a six-point lead and momentum. At halftime, the Jackrabbits led 40-29. In the third quarter, St. Thomas tried to take back momentum, getting within single digits, but the Jackrabbits again stormed back, ending the quarter on a 9-0 run to increase their lead to 17 after three.

From there, the game was essentially over, and the lead kept increasing. Ultimately, the Jacks walked away with a 29-point victory, their largest victory in the Summit League Tournament in three years.

Every Jackrabbit player in the game scored points and four Jackrabbits scored in double figures. Summit League player of the year Myah Selland led the Jacks with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Dru Gylten and Tori Nelson each led in assists with four.

After their slow start, the Jacks were able to take advantage of the conference’s second-ranked scoring defense. They shot 57.6% from the field, including shooting over 70% in both the second and fourth quarters, and scored 56 points in the paint.

“I think we’ve always kind of tried to be that team that can go inside out,” Selland said. “I think just the flexibility of our team, the versatility to do both and today we did a really good job in the paint.”

The Tommies shot 41.2% from the field and only 29.4% from three. Jordyn Glynn led with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Jade Hill led with four assists. Jo Langbehn added 16 points in nearly 18 minutes.

The Jackrabbits now await the winner of No. 4 South Dakota and No. 5 Oral Roberts, two teams the Jackrabbits each beat twice. Johnston is hoping his team will start faster than they did on Saturday.

“I think we just have to be a little more settled and maybe get into some sets and some actions earlier so we have a little more of a plan,” Johnston said. “But I still think one of the great things about our team is we stayed really steady.”