Jackrabbits grab a pair of victories in Frost Arena

By JORDAN C. SMITH Sportswriter


 After dropping the first two games of the season, the Jackrabbits answered back with an exciting win over Big East foe Georgetown Friday, Nov. 15 and a dominant performance against Northern Iowa Sunday Nov. 17. 

On Sunday the Jackrabbits got out to an early 7-0 lead, forcing the Panthers to waste timeouts early in the game. After that, the Jackrabbits never looked back and went on to a convincing 80-44 win over the UNI Panthers.

Two things that head coach Aaron Johnston has been preaching after the Jacks saw their first two games slip away was defense. Sunday afternoon the defense was there and it helped them score more points in transition.

“It was a good win,” Johnston said. “We just rebounded better and that’s important to us because it gives us some transition and obviously eliminates their second chance opportunities.”

A huge stat that sticks out from Sunday’s game was the shooting efficiency. SDSU hovered right around the 45 percent mark for the game from the field, and an even 50 percent from beyond the arc proving to be a boost for SDSU. While the Jackrabbits were successful in putting the ball in the basket Sunday, the Panthers couldn’t score a basket for the first six minutes of play. The Panthers shot a painfully low 22.6 percent in the first half, and were 0-16 through the first half from deep. The second half was just as unfair to the Panthers as they only managed one shot from three-point range and saw their overall shooting percentage stay the same.

“We knew they had a lot of shooters,” sophomore guard Chloe Cornemann said. “We also knew that they didn’t really shoot a high percentage.”

Cornemann had a career-high game as she scored 9 points on 3-4 shooting; she also recorded 2 assists.

A big time returning player for the Jackrabbits this season is senior Stephanie Paluch. Paluch was forced to sit out last season after suffering a devastating knee injury. The past two games Paluch has started to return to her old form, recording 17 points against Georgetown, and 16 against UNI.

“I just needed to start playing better,” Paluch said. “Our first two exhibition games went well, but I personally didn’t do very well. I’m just trying to step up my game and the knee is feeling good. I’m just trying to be a playmaker.”

Sunday’s game also saw all 12 of the Jackrabbit players record a point, highlighting the strength of the SDSU bench.

Friday night’s game against Georgetown was much more competitive, but the Jacks never gave up the lead. The Hoyas came within two points twice, but the Jackrabbits clung onto the lead until the end to record the first win of the season, 86-80. 

SDSU had four players earn double-digit points. Waytashek recorded 16, her third game in a row with double digits, Paluch had 15, Stuart unloaded for 23, and Tara Heiser put up 14 in her first game back. 

Assists proved to be huge in the game as SDSU nearly doubled Georgetown’s 12 with 21 of their own. Ball movement like that is difficult to cover and another testament to the unselfish play of the Jacks.

“We knew that South Dakota State has an excellent program,” Georgetown head coach Jim Lewis said. “Their kids did an excellent job, and shot a high percentage.”

Bench players have been a huge impact over the last two games. Junior forward Megan Stuart had the hot hand Friday night and went on to record a career-high 23 points in 29 minutes of play.

“She is a very good offensive player,” Johnston said. “She scored a lot of points in high school, and she has always scored here. Even her first two years she scored a lot. I don’t think it was a huge surprise, we see Megan make plays, today was exceptional.”

The Jackrabbits are back in Frost Arena Thursday as they take on Pepperdine, tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“They are much improved from last year,” Johnston said. “They play very similar to us, it will be a good test for us.”