No time to look back: Jacks jump forward

Jacks prepare to close out regular season 

In a battle for first place in the Summit League and bragging rights in the state, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits were unable to avenge their loss to the South Dakota Coyotes from earlier this season.

Despite 21 points from sophomore Ellie Thompson and 18 from freshman Madison Guebert, SDSU (22-5, 12-2 in the Summit League) was unable to contain the top offensive team in the conference as the Coyotes shot 50 percent from the field and got 21 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and four steals from senior Nicole Seekamp to pick up the win.

“I thought it had some similarities to the game we played against them in Brookings,” said SDSU Coach Aaron Johnston to reporters after the game. “In some ways we were in the game and doing OK – [but] a lot of little things caught us the same way here that they did there.”

The loss slots SDSU second in the Summit League moving into the final week of regular season action. However, all signs point to the Jacks and Coyotes meeting again in the Summit League Tournament championship game.

“Yeah, any good challenge is always great,” Seekamp said of a possible third meeting with the Jacks. “We aren’t going to focus on that until it comes, but it wouldn’t be bad for the fans and our team. If we keep the same focus we had in this game we can do it again.”

Before that can happen, though, both teams have two games scheduled for this week. The first seed in the Summit League Tournament and the outright conference title are still on the line, but the Jacks need help from other teams to get those done.

If the Jacks win both games this week – at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis and Western Illinois University – and the Coyotes lose both of their games – at IPFW and IUPUI – SDSU would claim the Summit League title and the top seed in the conference tournament, which starts on March 5 in Sioux Falls. One win by the Coyotes this Thursday and the Jacks will have to settle for the second seed.

The Jacks will look to get back on track on Thursday against IUPUI. In their first meeting, SDSU was able to outlast the Jaguars in double overtime at home. Guebert sank a jumper from the free throw line in the final minute to secure the 68-66 win.

IUPUI (19-8, 10-4 in conference play) presents an interesting challenge to the Jacks, especially considering that first contest. The Jaguars sit in third place in the conference and play the two teams ahead of them in the standings (USD and SDSU) in its final two regular season games, both at home.

Though they have two more conference losses than the Jacks, all of IUPUI’s losses have come by six points or less. Considering their youth, the close losses can come with inexperience.

Three of the Jaguars’ top five scorers are underclassmen, identical to SDSU’s scoring distribution. Both teams rely on younger players to lead them on both ends of the floor.

IUPUI is 10-2 at home this season while the Jacks are 7-2 on the road. Prior to Saturday’s loss, SDSU had won six-straight road contests while IUPUI has won each of their last five games at home.

A win against the Jaguars would secure the second seed in the conference tournament for SDSU.