Jacks face Leathernecks in battle for first place in Summit League

By ANDREW HOLTAN Sports Editor

The South Dakota State women’s basketball team is no longer in first place. After falling to the IUPUI Jaguars 64-59 in Indianapolis Feb. 11, the Jacks fell into second place behind the Western Illinois Leathernecks.

This sets up a matchup between the top two teams in the Summit League in Macomb, Illinois Wednesday, Feb. 15.

In the game against IUPUI, the Jacks were up 59-54 with 6:21 left in the game. SDSU would not score again, though, as IUPUI went on a 10-0 run to end the game.

“Our shot selection wasn’t great and IUPUI’s defense was very good. They did a good job of taking away our inside game,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston.

In the game before, SDSU defeated Oral Roberts 82-35 and held the Golden Eagles to 29 percent shooting. Against IUPUI, they allowed Jaguars to shoot 49 percent.

“We played pretty well against IUPUI, but played really well against Oral Roberts,” Johnston said.

“IUPUI did a nice job making plays and, offensively, we just were not very good in the fourth quarter.”

Senior forward Kerri Young scored 21 points against IUPUI and is averaging 16.3 points per game in her last six games.

“She’s playing very versatile,” Johnston said. “She’s making threes, which she’s always done, but now she’s being more aggressive and getting to the basket.”

The Jacks defeated the Leathernecks 73-58 on Jan. 21 in Brookings. SDSU is 19-1 all-time against the Leathernecks and has won the last 19 games in the series.

WIU comes into the game as the highest-scoring team in the Summit League as they average 80.4 points per game. The Leathernecks’ Emily Clemens, a junior guard, is the top scorer in the Summit League, averaging 18.7 points a game.

“It’s going to be a challenge. They (WIU) are by far playing the best offense we’ve seen from anybody,” Johnston said. “They can score from the three point line, the free throw line and in transition so they are hard to stop defensively.”

The Leathernecks are also one of the top teams in the Summit League defensively. They lead the league in turnovers forced per game at 19.9.

“They are one of the best teams in the country and the league in forcing turnovers,” Johnston said. “So they do a great job of disrupting you and keeping you off balance.”

SDSU has three games remaining in the season and control their own destiny to win the Summit League regular season title. If they win their final three games of the season, they will win the league.

“We want a chance to compete for a regular season title and that’s very important to us,” Johnston said. “But it’s a one game process. It’s not a three game trip, it’s play good basketball each day.”

After the game at WIU, the Jacks will travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana to take on Fort Wayne Saturday. SDSU will then come home to take on Denver on Feb. 23.