Jacks look to rebound against Panthers

A four-game road trip will come to an end for the South Dakota State women’s basketball team when they visit the University of Northern Iowa Panthers (4-2) Thursday at 7 p.m. in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The Jacks (4-1) are coming off a tough 74-60 loss to the No. 12 ranked Oklahoma Sooners on Nov. 23. Head Coach Aaron Johnston said it was such a good learning  experience playing an experienced team. 

“It wasn’t the high point for us, but it also wasn’t the lowest point for us either,” Johnston said. “There were some things we did well against a very good team and then some bad things that we need to work on. I don’t think the team is too down from it, they know they could have played better, and I think they are ready to move on to the next game and learn from it.”

Both UNI and SDSU make a lot of threes each game. The Panthers have made 41 threes (6.8 per game) and the Jacks have made 39 (7.8 per game).

One of the major keys, Johnston said, is to not let the Panthers get comfortable on the three-point line. The SDSU defense only allows about four threes a game on 25 percent shooting.

Johnston said the Panthers are good at spreading the ball out, making it hard to key on any one girl. Leading the team is senior guard Madison Weekly with 17.4 points per game and was recently named Missouri Valley Player of the Week.

“They execute a lot of different sets and have several different variations they can run to score the ball,” Johnston said. “Our half-court defense is key to disrupting their offense so they can’t get into their several sets they have, which I think our half-court defense is excellent this year.”

South Dakota State’s defense has been outstanding this year. They have only allowed opponents to score 57.2 points per game on 35 percent shooting. The Panthers have been good on the other side of the ball as they score 70 points per game. Johnston said they need to make sure they don’t give up any easy baskets on the fast break or break down early in UNI’s offensive sets.

Last year’s matchup was one for the books as the game went into double overtime before junior guard Alexis Alexander drove from half court and scored before the buzzer to force a second overtime period, where the Jacks would win 89-86.

 “I want to be aggressive in any way I can,” Alexander said. “The defensive end is where I want to be the most aggressive in for sure. I want to pick them up in the full court to disrupt their offense from starting. I want to drive to the basket as well, so I can get open shots for my teammates and make a difference on the defensive end of the floor.”

Alexander said it’s a new year and it’s a new Panthers team. They can’t let the success of last year’s win get in the way of this year’s game. She learned to never give up until the final whistle blows even after a double overtime game.

“We laid an egg in the Oklahoma game, but I think we are ready to move on and be aggressive for the rest of the season,” Alexander said.

She said the team is willing to get on the floor after loose balls, keep pushing, and keep their heads up.

The game can be seen live on ESPN3 at 7 p.m. and the Jacks return home Saturday, Dec. 3, to host Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 6 p.m. in Frost Arena.