Oregon avoids upset, slips by Jackrabbits

Landon Dierks, Sports Reporter

South Dakota State women’s team competed for 40 minutes but fell 87-79 to the No. 7 Oregon Ducks Wednesday in Frost Arena.

South Dakota State’s women’s basketball team just couldn’t keep the momentum going.

“I’d say we’re disappointed we didn’t pull it off,” senior guard Macy Miller said. “We were right there. It’s frustrating, but you can’t be content.”

A crowd of more than 2,500 people gathered to watch the Jacks clash with their top-10 opponent and created an environment that garnered high praise from Oregon head coach Kelly Graves.

“I want to congratulate (SDSU head coach) Aaron [Johnston] on having a great team and Jackrabbit fans on an amazing atmosphere,” Graves said. “[Frost Arena] is not a place you want to come play because you know you’re going to be battling a great team and a great crowd.”

It is not the first time SDSU has welcomed a national power to Brookings. Just last season it played then-No. 4 Louisville to within four points, but once again the Jacks couldn’t quite pull off the upset.

“We’ve been down that road before,” Johnston said. “We’ve played some really good teams close and I’d really love our players get the feeling of getting over the last hurdle.”

At the first media timeout, SDSU held an 18-14 lead, but Oregon’s defense held SDSU scoreless for nearly three minutes until senior guard Madison Guebert drained a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the home team a 21-18 lead after the opening period of play.

The back-and-forth scoring trend continued early in the second quarter, with Oregon drawing the game even at 27 on a 3-pointer by Erin Boley at the 7:23 mark, but SDSU responded.

A quick 8-0 spurt gave the Jacks a lead they would not surrender before halftime as SDSU led 45-40 at the midway point.

Guebert was the offensive star of the night for the Jackrabbits, sinking six 3-pointers and netting 21 points.

Shooting better than 55 percent from the field in the half, the Jacks were able to overcome 10 first-half turnovers, double that of Oregon to hold the slight advantage on the scoreboard.

Oregon kept pace with the Jacks due in large part to the play of forward Satou Sabally.

The sophomore from Berlin, Germany, scored 14 points in the opening 20 minutes, including the Ducks’ first 10 points of the contest to keep the Ducks within striking distance. She notched a team-high 27 points for the evening.

A 6-0 run by Oregon early in the third quarter cut what was a nine-point SDSU lead to three, but a three-point play from Miller ended the Ducks’ streak.

It would not be the visitor’s only run in the third.

Sabally hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to give Oregon its first lead since the first quarter. The basket was part of a 19-5 run to close the third quarter by the Ducks as they carried a 65-58 lead into the final 10 minutes.

“We got in the locker room and talked about the things we needed to do in order to improve and keep chipping away at the score,“ Oregon junior guard Sabrina Ionescu said. “We knew that if we could just make a run we could keep them down and that’s what we did.”

SDSU did not go away quietly.

Five quick points by the Jackrabbits to open the fourth quarter re-energized the Frost Arena crowd and after trading baskets for two minutes, a Sydney Palmer 3-pointer tied the game at 74.

With a two-point lead and the ball, Ionescu hit a deep 3-pointer with 46 seconds to play to put the game out of reach.

“Sometimes, as a coach, you see it in her eye,” Graves said. “You could see that it was coming. There’s nobody I trust more with the ball in her hands late in a big moment than Sabrina.”

Ionescu, the defending National Point Guard of the Year, finished with 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

The Jacks are back in action Friday when they host Savannah State at 7 p.m.