Jackrabbits sweep Roos, take league titles

Jason Salzman/salzmanstudios.com: At left, South Dakota State’s Tylee Irwin knocks down a 3-point shot during the third quarter of the Jackrabbits’ 72-66 victory over Kansas City on Saturday night at Frost Arena. At right, South Dakota State’s Alex Arians (3) connects on a jumper over Kansas City’s Jacob Johnson during the first half of the Jackrabbits’ 67-49 defeat of the Kangaroos on Friday night at Frost Arena.

BROOKINGS – It was a 4-0 weekend for the South Dakota State men’s and women’s basketball teams as they both swept Kansas City at Frost Arena. With the wins, the women went undefeated in the Summit League, something they have never done in program history, and the men claimed the conference regular-season championship.

WOMEN

 No. 22 SDSU 73, Kansas City 53

SDSU shot 85% from the field in the first quarter and outscored Kansas City 26-17. That propelled the Jacks to their 17th straight victory. This was SDSU’s first game after learning it would be without Summit League Player of the Year candidate and leading scorer Myah Selland for the rest of the season.

“Good win for us,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston. “It was a tough week with everything our players are dealing with and coming off an emotional weekend up in Fargo. Really wondered what we’d have in the tank and I thought we really played very well,” Johnston said.

The Roos played even with the Jacks in the second quarter and SDSU took an eight-point lead into the locker room. SDSU cooled off in the second and third quarters, but used impressive defense to keep the Roos at arm’s length.

SDSU put the game away in the fourth quarter when it went on a 12-2 run to go up 67-47 with 5:48 left in the game.

The Jacks shot 45.8% from the field for the game and were 4-for-15 from three. They missed their final 10 from deep. SDSU was led by Tylee Irwin and Paiton Burckhard, who each had 19 points. Burckhard also had five rebounds and Irwin was 12-for-12 from the free throw line.

Kansas City shot 37% from the field and was 6-for-22 from three. SDSU won the rebounding battle 35-30. The Roos were led by Mandy Williems and Ravon Nero, who each had 11 points.

With the win, the Jacks clinched the regular-season Summit League championship. Johnston said a regular-season conference championship is special to his team.

“… Without saying [this conference title] is more special, this is incredibly special. This has been a tough year, for everybody, I’m not just saying for us. For everybody. We’ve played a lot of games. We’ve had to work really hard to do that. To put ourselves in position to even play games has been a challenge. On top of it, there’s been adversity throughout the year. … We’ve had a lot of it. It’s been a tough, tough year and to be conference champs it feels phenomenal.

“I’m always the kind of person that if someone’s asking me or saying something like ‘all that matters are the last three days, in March and the tournament.’ I might stay in that conversation, but as soon as I hear that my mind is checked out. I don’t have the time for that. I can hang in there and continue to be polite, but our players go through a lot to get to this point and so many things have to go well. So many things you have to do well. It’s hard to be a regular-season conference champion. So I’m extremely proud of what this team has accomplished,” Johnston said.

Saturday

 No. 22 SDSU 72, Kansas City 66

The Jacks jumped out to 13-6 lead in the first quarter and didn’t look back as they capped off a perfect Summit League regular season.

“I think [going undefeated] wasn’t something we were shooting for throughout the season. We really just took it one game at a time, but it really just puts an exclamation point on our season. It just felt really good to top it off like that and have that momentum and confidence going into the Summit League Tournament,” Irwin said.

SDSU led the entire game and shot 44.4% from the field. The Jacks were 8-for-18 from deep and won the rebounding battle 31-24. Burckhard led SDSU with 24 points. Irwin had 17 points and six rebounds. Madysen Vlastuin finished with 11 points.

Kansas City shot 50% from the field and was 10-for-20 from three. Naomie Alnatas led the Roos with 19 points. Paige Bradford had 17 points and 11 rebounds. 

Up next, the Jacks will travel to Sioux Falls for the Summit League Championship. Johnston said he is proud of the way the Jacks finished the season without Selland.

“I feel good [about our team],’ Johnston said. “I feel like we have a good plan and have good rotations. We’ll probably tweak and add to it this week. I feel like the team has that confidence that we can go out and play well and that was really important after some injuries.”

MEN

Friday

 SDSU 67, Kansas City 49

SDSU went just 2-for-8 on 3-pointers, but the Jacks were 22-for-30 on 2-point field goals as they used a second half surge to come away with a big win against the Roos.

“Our guys were really stubborn. We only shot eight 3-point shots and three in the second half. … Our guys did a tremendous job of staying stubborn. We knew we wanted to play behind their pressure and give our bigs a chance to play down there and I wasn’t sure if [Kansas City] was going to dig or let them play one-on-one and they decided to play one-on-one. Something I’m really happy about is our team’s versatility. We were able to score in multiple ways and when you don’t force things that makes it really special and our guys did a good job of staying stubborn. A lot of that stuff was around the basket, so that really helped us,” Henderson said.

The Jacks jumped out to an 8-2 lead, but Kansas City then went on a 14-4 run to take a 16-12 lead with 9:33 left in the first half. The Roos led 24-20 with 4:37 left in the first half and the Jacks went on a 11-2 run to end the half and took a 31-26 lead into the locker room.

Kansas City tied the game 31-31 37 seconds into the second half. SDSU then when on a 10-2 run to jump ahead. The Jacks led 53-44 with 5:52 left in the game and went on a 14-5 run to put the Roos away.

SDSU shot 63.2% from the field and was led by Luke Appel, who scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds. Baylor Scheierman had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Matt Dentlinger had 13 points and Douglas Wilson had nine. Alex Arians finished with eight points and five rebounds.

“[Appel] is a terrific offensive player. He has so much confidence. He can create an angle down there. He’s just got some quirkiness with his shoulders and he’s got a quick first step where it’s hard to keep him from getting an angle. I thought he got to his moves really quick and used shot fakes well. We need him to continue to play well down the stretch here,” Henderson said.

Kansas City shot 33.3% from the field and was 6-for-25 from three. The Roos were led by Brandon McKissic, who had 17 points. Josia Allick had 12 points.

This was one of the more impressive defensive performances for the Jacks.

“We were able to stay in our gaps a little bit longer,” Henderson said. “You know, McKissic is a terrific player, so we knew we needed to keep him out of the paint. I thought we did a good job with our ball screen coverage. Especially [Matt] Mims and Charlie [Easley]. But equally as good was Matt Dentlinger and Doug and Luke when they set ball screens to stay as long as they had to, so [McKissic] wasn’t getting downhill and making plays for other people.”

Saturday

 SDSU 89, Kansas City 77

SDSU followed up Friday’s shooting performance with a record-breaking performance Saturday.

The Jacks shot 73.5% from the field, which was a school record. SDSU also took advantage of Kansas City’s 30 fouls as they went 35-for-42 from the free throw line.

“[The game] was unique,” Henderson said. “Last night we shot eight 3-point shots and tonight we shot five. You guys have seen our box scores, that doesn’t happen very often. For our stubbornness and to find other ways to be successful. I’m really proud of our guys. It’s not an easy way to operate. Just kind of change what you do.”

The Jacks were led by Wilson, who had 20 points and five rebounds. Dentlinger, Appel and Scheierman each finished with 16 points. Alex Arians had 11 points. SDSU was 4-for-6 from three.

McKissic did not play for the Roos on Saturday. They shot 52% from the field and were 10-for-21 from three. Kansas City had just 13 rebounds compared to SDSU’s 26.

SDSU finished the regular season with an overall record of 15-6 and 9-3 in the Summit League. Henderson said he is excited with how his team finished the regular season and ready for the Summit League Tournament this weekend.

“Like this game, [the regular season] hasn’t been easy, but I’m very proud of our guys. To put ourselves in the situation that we did. … For our guys to come together and to put ourselves in the situation that we’re in, guaranteed to play Saturday night at the Summit League Tournament. The resiliency that these guys showed. I’m so proud of them, but we’re hopeful the best is yet to come,” Henderson said.

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