Jacks win NCAA opener behind Selland’s 29

(Keith/Sideline Media Productions) South Dakota State's Myah Selland goes up for a lay up during a 62-57 overtime win over USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night in Blacksburg, Virginia.

SDSU downs USC in overtime

BLACKSBURG, Va. – When South Dakota State needed it the most, Myah Selland carried the Jackrabbits on Friday night and SDSU came away with a 62-57 overtime victory over the USC Trojans in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at CassellColiseum.

The sixth-year senior scored nine-straight points to begin the overtime, which was part of 18-straight points for her, and finished with 29 points for the game. SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said he’s been waiting for a game where the two-time Summit League Player of the Year would be forced to takeover and said it was nice to see her do that in such a big moment.

Myah was the difference for us in the game, in a variety of ways. Certainly her scoring. She was able to make a lot of tough plays and put them into foul trouble with some big time plays for us. She was that calming presence today because there were times where we rattled. … We obviously went to her a lot late in that game, particularly in overtime, and she responded like you would hope someone who has that talent and ability,” Johnston said.

No 9 seeded SDSU (29-5) led 57-49 in overtime, but the Trojans (21-11) didn’t give up and fought their way back and Littleton had a chance to tie the game with 14 seconds left. Her 3-point attempt was shot was off of the mark and SDSU prevailed.

The game went to overtime after USC’s Destiny Littleton hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left in regulation. Selland had a shot at a game-winner, but it did not draw iron and they played an extra period in Blacksburg. Selland said her and her teammates knew they had to to stick together heading into overtime.

We just talked a lot about staying together and making plays together and doing things as a group. We had five more minutes to compete and earn another game and I thought we just did a really good job of staying together,” Selland said.

No. 8 seeded USC jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter. The Jacks would then go on a 12-0 run of their own and took their first lead of the game 8:19 left in the second quarter.

I think [we just had to settle down],” Selland said. I think we had a few good looks early and they didn’t fall, so we knew if just stayed with it and stayed confident we would get shots to fall. I thought we did good job of staying in the game and slowly chipped away at the lead,” Selland said.

The two teams then went back-and-forth after the Jacks took the lead and a Selland 3-pointer just before the buzzer put SDSU up 23-20 at halftime.

SDSU would go up 29-22 at the midway point of the third quarter but the Trojans would cut the lead to 34-31 by the end of the quarter. USC then went on a 9-2 run to go up 40-36 with seven minutes to go, but SDSU scored four straight to tie the game with 5:39 left. That set up the final stretch before Littleton’s heroics at the end of regulation.

SDSU held USC to 31.3% shooting and the Trojans were 6-of-24 from beyond the arc. Even though the Trojans had a large size advantage, Johnston said he thought his team did a good job down low as SDSU won the rebound battle 45-39.

“I think we do a really good job of understanding matchups. … We mixed up how we handled ball screens in this game compared to how we did that throughout the year based on how we could do. We really wanted to play one-on-one with them in the post, which we did, and I thought we helped out the right people most of the time. We thought rebounding was going to be a big factor and from my perspective I thought we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds, but I felt like we got a lot of offensive rebounds, so it worked out that way,” Johnston said.

SDSU shot 35.2% for the game and was 2-of-10 from three. Paige Meyer was the only other Jackrabbit in double figures and she had 16 points.

Up next, SDSU will have to face the No. 1 seeded Virginia Tech Hokies in their home arena on Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern time. The Hokies earned the No. 1 seed by going 28-4 this season and beat No. 16 seeded Chattanooga 58-33 on Friday night.

Johnston said he thinks his team will relish the opportunity to play spoiler on Sunday night and make the most of the opportunity, like they have all season.

“Tomorrow we’ll move on and be ready for the next opportunity. If there’s something you’ve heard a lot from our team this year, they use the saying ‘make the most of the opportunity.’ What can we do with this chance that we have? And I think they’ll approach this game the same way. Playing a great team in their place is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. So, I think we’ll look at it that way and we’ll get a game plan and be ready to go,” he said.