Jacks thriving despite injuries

HANNAH NIEMAN Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State women’s basketball team opened Summit League play over the break with a 3-1 record, picking up wins over North Dakota State, Fort Wayne and Omaha, and falling to South Dakota, even without a couple of key players.

“We’ve still been a work in progress,” Head Coach Aaron Johnston said. “Having a couple of players not out on the court takes a little time to adjust to, but I thought from where we were at North Dakota State to where we were against Omaha we’ve actually shown a lot of improvement.”

The Jackrabbits faced a few lineup changes after losing two of their starters prior to the start of conference play. Junior point guard Macy Miller will miss the rest of the 2016-17 season due to a leg injury, while senior center Clarissa Ober is hoping to return soon.

“We’re getting people comfortable with their roles because everybody’s kind of switched roles,” Johnston said. “We have a very different team without Macy and Clarissa, so defensively we’re not quite where we need to be …  but I think our team has taken some good steps.”

Junior Alexis Alexander and sophomore Sydney Palmer have moved into the starting lineup with senior Kerri Young and sophomore Madison Guebert, giving the Jacks a four-guard lineup while junior Ellie Thompson takes over Ober’s role at center.

Though it’s taken time for the Jackrabbits to adjust to losing Miller’s ability not only to score, but also create shots for her teammates; Young, Guebert and Thompson have stepped up offensively. The trio is averaging 19 points, 17.8 points and 12.3 points in conference play, respectively. 

Johnston said his team is a lot more confident now than they were back in mid-December when Miller first got hurt.

“Kerri is someone who has really stepped up for us,” Johnston said. “And I think it’s opened the door for Lexi [Alexander] to have a much bigger role and I think she’s really grown into that. Her assist to turnover ratio the last four games has been excellent. Sydney Palmer is shooting the ball with a lot more confidence and she’s been better defensively for us.”

As the team continues to make adjustments on both ends of the floor, Johnston remains positive under the new circumstances.

“I like where we’re at. Very few teams in our league can take two of their top players out of their lineup and still have success,” Johnston said. “We’ve got a really good group and some of our newer players are getting more comfortable and are playing better now. We’re moving in a good direction.”

SDSU is in a four-way tie for first place in the Summit League with records of 12-4 and 3-1 in league play. 

The Jacks continue conference play Wednesday as they host IUPUI at 7 p.m. in Frost Arena. The Jaguars come into the game 11-5 overall and 1-2 in league play after losing to Omaha and South Dakota this past weekend.