Jacks women win Summit tourney opener

(Dave Eggen/Inertia) Paige Meyer of SDSU drives the lane past Jordyn Glynn (12) and Autam Mendez of St. Thomas at the 2023 Summit League Basketball Championship at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

SDSU started slowly but had more than enough to defeat St. Thomas

SIOUX FALLS – The South Dakota State women got off to a slow start on Saturday afternoon but the Jackrabbits controlled the final three quarters and came away with an 87-59 victory over St. Thomas in the quarterfinals of the Summit League Tournament at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls.

No. 1 seeded SDSU (26-5), who went 18-0 against Summit League teams this season, trailed 18-14 at the end of the first quarter and the Jacks then outscored the Tommies 26-11 in the second quarter. The Jacks then closed out the third quarter on a 13-4 run and that put the game out of reach.

“It was fun to get out here and play in that environment and atmosphere again,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston. “… I thought we played well. It was a physical game, so it was hard to find space out there and move out there, but I thought we handled that well. We probably had some of those early tournament jitters in that first quarter and turned it over a little bit too much, but the rest of the game we handled that.”

After trailing at the end of the first quarter, SDSU opened the second with a 12-2 run to take a 26-20 lead and they didn’t look back. Senior forward Myah Selland said the team just needed to to regroup and play the way they’ve been playing all season.

“I don’t think [Johnston said] anything special [after the first quarter]. It was just kind of a good time for us to regroup and get back to playing within our system. I thought we just collectively did a good job of regrouping and not getting too worked up after that first quarter,” Selland said.

No. 8 seeded UST hung around with the Jacks in the third quarter as they trailed 45-37 with just over six minutes left before 13-4 run by SDSU that led to a 58-41 Jackrabbit lead going into the final quarter. The Jacks then completely put the game away in the fourth as they outscored the Tommies 29-18.

SDSU shot 58% from the field and were 5-of-11 from three. All 12 players that played for the Jacks scored and Selland said the depth of the team has been the story of their season.

“That’s been our strength the whole year, the depth of our team. When you have to string together possibly three games in four games, that just adds to the strength of our depth,” Selland said.

Selland led SDSU with 15 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Paige Meyer, who did not play in the Summit League Tournament last season as she suffered a knee injury in the team’s final regular season game, had 14 points in her first tournament game of her career. Johnston said he though Meyer handled the spotlight very well.

“It was her first tournament and she’s a sophomore and has played in so many games, but this was her first time [playing at the PREMIER Center]. I thought she played fantastic. You saw her get to the basket in the first half and she’s hard to guard. I’ll be honest, we don’t push her into those situations where it’s like ‘hey, go beat your defender.’ But she has that ability to really take over a game with just her ability to get to the basket. She’s also a really good passer and can make some three’s. So, it was nice to see her be assertive when we needed more of scoring punch [from her],” Johnston said.

Brooklyn Meyer had 11 points and five rebounds. Haleigh Timmer had 10 points and Tori Nelson and Paiton Burckhard each had eight points.

SDSU held UST to 41% shooting and the Tommies were 5-of-17 from three. Jordyn Glynn led UST with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jo Langbehn had 16 points.

Getting off to slow starts has been a bit of a theme for the Jacks in games away from Brookings. Johnston said if his team wants to avoid that the rest of the tournament they need to be more aggressive from the start.

“I think we just have to be more ourselves [at the start of the game]. Maybe get into some more sets and actions earlier so we have more of a plan. We had a little more motion in this game and I think we need to be a little more deliberate with what we do. I still think that one of the great things about our team is that we stayed steady and we didn’t see a big change in their emotions or energy level. Their just really consistent and our leaders have done a great job of that all year,” Johnston said.

SDSU will play the winner of No. 4 seeded South Dakota and No. 5 seeded Oral Roberts on Monday at 12:30 p.m. The Coyotes and Golden Eagles will play their quarterfinal game on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.