It’s rivalry week for the South Dakota State women’s basketball team. The Jacks take on North Dakota State on Thursday and South Dakota on Saturday.
“Playing in rivalry games is always a special thing,” said SDHead Coach Aaron Johnston. “Not many women’s college basketball teams get to play in games that have this much interest and excitement.”
Junior forward Ellie Thompson said there has been more energy in practice and a spark in the air for the games.
“Having a rivalry game is always fun and having two in the same week is such a rare experience,” Thompson said.
The Jacks (16-5, 7-2) fell to Omaha 83-82 Saturday, Jan. 28 and gave up 16 three-pointers in the contest.
“Defensively we were a bit passive. Omaha was really able to get a lot of shots in rhythm and we didn’t do anything to make them uncomfortable, and to be successful defensively we need to be disruptive,” Johnston said.
The Jacks are led by sophomore guard Madison Guebert, who is averaging 15.5 points a game and scored 21 points in the loss against Omaha.
“She’s really expanded her game,” Johnston said. “She was really just a catch and shoot three-point shooter. Now she attacks the basket, shoots mid-range jumpers and gets to the free-throw line.”
Guebert has found her rhythm offensively and has taken over as the team leader since junior guard Macy Miller went down with an injury.
“It took a couple of games to get used to playing without Macy, but Madison has taken over that role and has stepped up and knocked down big shots,” Thompson said.
As of right now SDSU is tied atop the Summit League with USD, so Saturday’s game could be a battle for first place. But the Jacks know they have to take care of NDSU, who they defeated 69-66 earlier in the season, if they want to take first.
“We snuck by North Dakota State in Fargo,” Johnston said. “So I think that is good enough reason to see that they match up well with us and we have to give them our full attention.”
The players are doing exactly what Johnston told them: take it one game at a time.
“We’re not even focused on USD right now,” Thompson said. “It’s in the back of our minds and we’re really focused on North Dakota State right now.”
The 83 points the Jacks gave up against Omaha tied for the most they’ve given up in a game all season. Coach Johnston knows they need to make adjustments if they want to come away with victories against their rivals.
“We can’t let teams make 16 threes and we’re going to have to rebound,” Johnston said. “Because both of these teams are very physical; both around the perimeter and inside.”
The NDSU game will start at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 and the USD game will start at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4. Both games will be played at Frost Arena.