Jacks set to host NDSU, Omaha

Landon Dierks, Sports Reporter

Following a 66-48 road win over North Dakota last week, South Dakota State’s women’s basketball team will play back-to-back games at Frost Arena this week.

Since a loss to rival South Dakota on Jan. 6, the Jackrabbits (13-6, 5-1) have won three straight Summit League contests by at least 13 points.

SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston points to his team’s defensive performance as a reason for the recent success.

“We’re playing hard defensively,” Johnston said. “We’ve really taken some good steps forward the last couple weeks. We’re rebounding better … defending the lane better … now we just have to find a way to do those things without fouling.”

The Jacks have held each of their last three opponents under 60 points and have a combined rebounding margin of plus-34 in those contests.

While the Jacks’ defense has been the story in recent weeks, it will likely come down to execution at the other end of the court this week. SDSU’s next two opponents, North Dakota State and the University of Nebraska Omaha, both rank in the top half of the Summit League in scoring defense.

North Dakota State (NDSU)

NDSU comes to Frost Arena fresh off a win over UND and will look to topple the Jackrabbits on their home floor for the first time since

Taking down the Jacks may be a tall task, as the Bison haven’t beat the Jacks in Frost Arena since 2010 and own a 6-12 overall record this season. However, NDSU has performed better as of late, earning a mark of 3-3 in conference play highlighted by wins over Western Illinois and UND.

On offense, the Bison tend to slow down the pace of play in order to limit the chances the opposition has over the course of a game. This strategy has proved effective as NDSU’s scoring defense ranks fourth in the Summit League.

“Their defense is really solid and they defend the lane really well,” Johnston said. “They are really long inside and have true post players that can block and contest shots. Overall they’ve done a good job of keeping everything in front of them and not giving up many easy shots.”

NDSU’s Player to Watch: Michelle Gaislerova

The Bison offensive strategy revolves around star guard Michelle Gaislerova.

Gaislerova, a sophomore from the Czech Republic, leads NDSU in scoring average with 15.7 points per game which also ranks fifth in the conference.

Where she excels is behind the 3-point line. She averages 2.6 makes from long range per contest, the fourth best rate in the Summit League

“She is really talented and shoots the heck out of the ball,” Johnston said. “She also gets to the basket so she’s very versatile.”

Tip for this matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Omaha (UNO)

On Saturday, the Omaha women’s basketball program will make its visit to Frost Arena for the first game of a Pork Classic doubleheader.

UNO has struggled in conference play to this point, earning just one win in six Summit League games, but its defense can cause problems for opposing teams.

The Mavericks’ allow the second-fewest points per game (65.2) in the Summit League and mixing defenses is a big reason for their success at that end of the floor.

“They mix it up between some zone and man-to-man,” Johnston said. “Their zone has always been tough to score against because they prevent layups and don’t give you a lot of easy ones at the rim, so you’ve always had to make some jump shots if you want to beat UNO — that can be hard to do.”

UNO’s Player to Watch: Rayanna Carter

While UNO has an offensive balance (seven players average between 5.7 and 10.2 points per game), the Mavericks can struggle offensively which is why their exceptional defense hasn’t led them to many wins so far this season.

The Mavericks average 60.2 points per game, the second-worst mark in the Summit League.

“Sometimes they’ve just had a hard time scoring,” Johnston said. “I think the balance is good for them, but at times it’s maybe a lack of consistency. But they run good sets and have good floor balance so we’ll have to do a good job defending them.”

If there’s someone that the Jacks might want to keep in check, it’s UNO junior guard Rayanna Carter.

Carter has averaged 11.2 points per game in conference games to lead the Mavericks. Carter’s scoring comes primarily from inside the 3-point arc, even though she has attempted only 15 3-point field goals all season.

Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26.