Jackrabbit women cruise past Oral Roberts, advance to Summit League title game


Evan Patzwald

Jackrabbit guard Haleigh Timmer drives on ORU’s Tirzah Moore in a Summit League Tournament semifinal game March 6 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

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

The South Dakota State women’s basketball team is heading to the title game of the Summit League Tournament for the second-straight year.

The top-seeded Jackrabbits (27-5) crushed No. 5 Oral Roberts (12-19) 87-60 in the semifinals Monday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

The Jackrabbits were coming off a dominant 28-point win against St. Thomas Saturday, while the Golden Eagles beat No. 4 seed South Dakota 92-69 Sunday. That gave the Jacks an extra day of rest, an advantage that seemed to help them as the game went on.

“Mentally, you’re going up against that pressure, sometimes you just need a break,” coach Aaron Johnston said. “I do think over time, our depth and experience definitely I think won out in that type of game for sure.”

But ORU’s full-court press defense, which gave USD problems Sunday, seemed to affect the Jacks as well. SDSU committed seven turnovers in the game’s first six minutes, largely because of that pressure, and only led by one. After that, the Jacks seemed to settle down and fatigue began to show for Oral Roberts.

After that, the Jacks began moving the ball around and getting everybody involved. SDSU then went on a 11-0 over the next few minutes and closed the quarter on a 15-6 run to take a 10-point lead.

“I think the first couple of minutes, we’re both flying up and down the floor,” guard Paige Meyer said. “We knew we just had to get composed, slow down and pass it and find the open teammate.”

The Jacks then opened the second quarter on a 14-0 run and outscored the Golden Eagles 22-8 in that quarter. At halftime, the Jacks had a 46-22 lead.

At that point, the game was essentially put out of reach, but ORU refused to go away. After the Jacks led by as much as 26, the Golden Eagles cut the lead to 16 early in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get any closer.

From there, the Jacks cruised to their eighth-straight win of 20-plus points and 24th-straight win over Oral Roberts.

Haleigh Timmer led the Jacks in scoring with 25 points on an efficient 8-12 from the field and 5-7 from three-point range. Tori Nelson finished with 14 points on 4-6 shooting and Meyer added 11 points and led the team with eight rebounds and five assists. Kallie Theisen had six of SDSU’s 11 blocks on defense.

Four Golden Eagle players scored in double figures. Hannah Cooper led with 14 points and four assists before fouling out late in the game. Ariel Walker and Lauren Ramey each had 12 points while Ruthie Udoumoh added 11.

Now, after finishing as the conference runner-up to USD a year ago, The Jackrabbits are heading back to the title game, this time against either Kansas City or Omaha. SDSU beat both teams twice this season, with both wins against UKC coming by 30-plus points. Omaha did play the Jacks close in their first matchup, but SDSU prevailed and won by seven.

They look to win the conference title for the first time since 2019, something that players like Meyer and Timmer have yet to experience.

“It would mean a lot,” Timmer said. “Especially after falling short last year, I think we kind of have that desire to get there. But just taking it one moment at a time and taking advantage of every opportunity.”

The women’s championship game will be Tuesday at 1 and can be seen on ESPNU.