Jaguars swallow dreams of perfection

Robert Myers Sports Editor

This past week, the SDSU women’s basketball team embarked on a road trip against teams that stood second and third in the Summit League, and during Saturday’s game, their flawless conference record was maimed by the IUPUI Jaguars who defeated the Jacks 76-66.

“This wasn’t a surprise to us that they came out and played really well,” head coach Aaron Johnston said. “… They were good last year and they’re good this year. We had a tough game with them at home. We just didn’t play quite well enough on the road.”

On Thursday, they faced their first opponent, Fort Wayne, whom they defeated by a final score of 77-66. The Jacks shot 40.4 percent from the field for the game while holding IPFW to 31 percent. SDSU also held a 45-33 rebound advantage and outscored IPFW 30-14 in the paint.

Hannah Strop and Chynna Stevens each finished with 16 points. No other Jackrabbits finished in double figures, but Mariah Clarin was on the cusp of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Gabby Boever finished with seven points and six steals.

Haley Seibert led all players with 23 points and had a team-high of four steals. Also finishing in double figures for the Mastodons were Amanda Hyde with 13 points and Stephanie Mauk with 10 points. Rachel Mauk led IPFW with eight rebounds.

Saturday’s game at IUPUI proved to be a greater challenge for the Jacks. They found themselves trailing early before retaking the lead, only to see it slip away by the end of the half when they went to the locker room trailing 39-35.

The Jaguars then came out of the locker room with fire, opening up the half with a 6-0 run that put them up 10 and forced the Jacks to try and play catch up for the rest of the half. 

A jumper by Steph Paluch brought the Jacks as close as three with a little over 12 minutes left. Two minutes later, Clarin converted a three-point play to bring the Jacks to within two, but that was as close as they got.

IUPUI quickly countered with a 6-0 run which the Jacks could not match as they never managed to close the game back to one possession.  Eventually they watched the Jaguars finish out the final minute of play on a 6-1 run.

Clarin led the Jacks with 13 points and five rebounds. Stevens and Paluch also finished in double figures with Stevens scoring 10 points and Paluch scoring 11 points, all of them coming in the second half after she was limited to three minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Boever had seven points and five steals.

“Mariah had a nice game,” Johnston said. “It was good to see her respond. She really had a tough month of January. She was in foul trouble so much there that she never really got involved in games.” 

On the Jaguar side, DeAirra Gross led all players with 27 points, a game high four assists, and four steals. Nicole Rogers finished with 17 points. Also finishing in double figures were Nevena Markovic with 12 points and Akila Simms with 10 points.

“Rogers and Gross really hurt us,” Johnston said. “Sims and Markovic were good … But we’re not going to win when we let Gross and Rogers go for almost 50 points. That’s not quite where they were, but that’s too many from those two players.”

The teams were almost even in shooting percentages with the Jacks shooting 43.5 percent and the Jaguars shooting 43.9 percent, but IUPUI was much better from the beyond the arc where they shot 45.5 percent compared to SDSU’s 31.3 percent.

IUPUI also outrebounded SDSU by five and forced the Jacks to turn it over 25 times. The Jaguars had seven fewer turnovers offensively and also made five more assists than the Jacks.

“We didn’t play poorly; we didn’t play well either, somewhere in the middle,” Johnston said. “I thought IUPUI did great. They just were a real hungry team, played with a lot of intensity and I just kind of felt like we were always trying to match what they were doing as opposed to having our own level of intensity.” 

SDSU will return to action on Thursday Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. when they host the University of Nebraska-Omaha who will bring a 4-4 conference record into the contest.