Jacks victorious in foul rivalry at Frost

Robert Myers Sports Editor

Amidst 59 personal fouls, the SDSU women’s basketball team defended their home court in an 88-69 victory over the USD Coyotes on Feb. 1. 

The Jackrabbits entered Saturday’s contest boasting an unblemished Summit League record and not having suffered a home loss to the Coyotes since 1990. The Coyotes last played the Jacks in the Summit League finals last year where SDSU emerged victorious 56-53. Since then, the Coyotes lost several veteran players and found themselves entering this year’s game a much younger team and 2-4 in conference play.

Play commenced much as it had in SDSU’s recent games. The opening minutes were a back-and-forth battle. Polly Harrington scored six of the Coyotes first eight points. The Jacks countered by unleashing a barrage of points including back-to-back threes from Chynna Stevens to turn a 10-10 tie into a 16-12 Jackrabbit lead.

Fouls are called early and frequently. Mariah Clarin picked up two fouls within the first 90 seconds of play. Four Jackrabbits and two Coyotes finished the half with two personal fouls. Megan Stuart also landed three fouls for SDSU. USD’s Harrington and Margaret McCloud picked up three in the half. 

“I don’t tell them anything,” head coach Aaron Johnston said. “I just look at the bench and pick the next person. … Honestly that’s all you can do is keep looking behind you, figure out who didn’t have fouls and put them in the game. And for us, we’ve got a lot of depth … we have the ability to manage games like this.”

Of Stuart’s three fouls, two drew uproars from the home crowd. The first play involved Stuart appearing to jump straight up for a defensive rebound and come down with possession, not having caused contact with USD defenders. Stuart’s other foul drew greater commotion as she is called as she appeared to collide with a USD player after being shoved to the ground.

Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits push ahead to a 53-35 lead. Megan Waytashek leads the court with 11 points and the Jacks made nine of 18 three-pointers in the first half.

“I thought that was an incredible first half from South Dakota State,” USD head coach Amy Williams said. “We came in here with the game plan, we felt like they’ve been in conference play scoring a lot of points in the paint and we wanted to protect the paint. They made us pay from behind the arc because of that.”

Second half proved a continuation of the first half. The Jacks maintained their dominant lead and within the first five minutes, SDSU’s Clarissa Ober and USD’s Harrington and McCloud all found themselves with four personal fouls.

“It was finding ways to try and go out and not foul and play good team basketball,” Steph Paluch said regarding the players’ response to how the game was called. “[We] just go on to what we need to do and not let it affect us – just know that they’re going to call it both ways.”

The Coyotes did not come closer than 14 points during the entire second half, while the Jacks led by as many as 23 points. SDSU’s shooting percentage cooled off considerably, dropping from a first half shooting percentage of 53.1 to 41.7 percent, during which the Jacks missed all five three-point attempts. Fortunately, the Jacks shot well from the foul line making 15 of 17.

Waytashek led the entire court with 20 points, consisting of 10 coming from the three point line and six rebounds. Gabby Boever finishes the game with 15 points. Also finishing in double figures was Paluch with 13 along with a team-high five assists. 

“We were really passing the ball well and had good ball movement on offense,” Waytashek said. “We were really unselfish with the ball – people just making good passes and shooting with confidence.”

Stevens only added one free throw to her early collection of six points, but most evident on her stat line, she is not once charged with a foul in 20 minutes of play. No other SDSU player playing more than three minutes had less than two personal fouls. 

Her counterpart on the USD side, Lisa Loeffler, played 31 minutes without picking up a foul. USD was charged with 26 fouls during the game. Harrington and McCloud foul out while two teammates finished with four fouls. Offensively, USD drove to the line 41 times where they shot 63.4 percent.

“Free throws let us down,” USD’s Nicole Seekamp said. “It could have been a much closer game I think if we had made more than half of those ones.”

Seekamp makes four of six baskets from the line and scored a team high of 13 points. Also, Seekamp made a team high of five assists. Bridget Arens was the only other Coyote in double figures with 12 points. McCloud led USD with six rebounds and contributed nine points.

“We ended up having to play Bridget Arens the freshman post player a lot more minutes than she’s probably been used to,” Williams said. “She stepped up and gave us a spark. … When we have two of our five [starting] players that were fouled out in 11 minutes and 16 minutes of playing time then that’s gonna cause you to have to make some adjustments.”

SDSU committed 33 personal fouls. Clarin fouled out and four others finished with four fouls. The Jacks drive to the line 31 times, shooting 80.6 percent for the game. 

The Jacks will now begin a road swing that could prove their toughest in Summit League play as they are set to travel to Fort Wayne on Thursday, Feb. 6 followed by IUPUI on Saturday, Feb. 8. IUPUI currently sits second in the Summit League standings with a 6-1 conference record and a 16-6 overall record. Fort Wayne is third in the league at 4-3.