Coyotes take down Jacks

The USD women’s basketball team took SDSU by storm with a convincing 72-58 victory that ended the Jackrabbits’ streak of five straight Summit League Tournament Championships.

Coming off of an emotional victory over Western Illinois to advance, the Coyotes came out on the attack against a Jackrabbit team that had watched the tournament from afar after receiving the first round bye.

“I think the 1st half they showed they had more fire than we did and I think they got on the boards better than we did,” freshman Kerri Young said. “I think just coming out with a lot more fire and energy would have helped us out.”

From the beginning, SDSU appeared flat and it showed inside the paint as Polly Harrington and the USD offense gashed them early to the tune of 26 points in the paint and 17 second chance points.

Around the eight minute mark SDSU managed to pull to within four, regardless of their offensive woes, but after that USD  went on a run to finish the half leading 37-25.

The second half saw the Jackrabbits show some life as they rallied to close the gap to just 11 points before being repelled by USD.

Megan Waytashek led the SDSU offense with her 18 points. The only other player to reach double figures was Steph Paluch who scored 12.

The Jackrabbits, typically strong off the bench, were edged out in that category by the Coyotes who had 21 points to the Jacks’ 18. Headlining the USD effort there was freshman Bridget Arens who scored 12 points in the game.

USD head coach Amy Williams said that Nicole Seekamp was battling an illness, but Seekamp nevertheless led the Coyotes with 19 points. Harrington finished with 18 points and also pulled down nine rebounds to lead the team.

With the win, USD advances to the championship game where last year they lost to the Jackrabbits. They will play the winner of Denver and IUPUI.

Though SDSU’s hopes of securing an automatic bid by winning the tournament were dashed, they still hold an outside chance of getting in and could be considered a bubble team. Not in their favor are the facts that mid-major leagues typically do not draw at large bids and also that their season will end with a loss early in their conference tournament to a low RPI team.

“I don’t think we’re that far off [from NCAA Tournament play],” head coach Aaron Johnston said. “I don’t think it’s impossible, but I just don’t see it. This loss hurts us. This is one of our worst losses all year, numbers wise. That’s the thing about coming out early in the conference tournament. The loss if you’re a top seed, that’s not a negative towards you, that doesn’t help our case.”

Where SDSU benefits is with their 13-1 record and a competitive non-conference schedule which features an upset victory over nationally ranked Penn State who won a share of the Big Ten regular season championship.

If not selected to the NCAA Tournament, SDSU is guaranteed a place in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament because of their regular season championship.

“I think we will think about this [loss] for a few days,” Paluch said. “We have practice again here pretty soon. It’s going to be tough, especially now thinking about that but we have another chance and another tournament.”