Pioneers stun Jackrabbits at Frost Arena

Andrew Holtan/Register: South Dakota State’s Tori Nelson goes up for a lay up over Denver’s Sophia Zulich during the fourth quarter of a game at Frost Arena in Brookings.

BROOKINGS – Denver’s women’s basketball team made history Thursday night in Frost Arena. For the first time ever, the Pioneers came to Brookings and left with a win.

“Congratulations to Denver. They were a better team than we were and I mean that. I just thought they were. They made a lot of effort plays that it takes to win. I thought we were a bit sluggish for most of the game, whether it was defensively or offensively or rebounding or loose balls. They had a lot of energy and we didn’t,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston.

It was a back-and-forth first half and SDSU took a 37-36 lead into halftime. The Jacks were up 40-36 two minutes into the second half and Denver went on a 11-0 run to take a 47-40 lead with 4:30 left in the third quarter. The Jacks tried to claw their way back, but the Pioneers had answer for every basket and led 53-47 at the end of the quarter.

SDSU pulled to within five multiple times in the fourth quarter, but Denver continued to make shots. The dagger came with 1:33 left when Lauren Loven hit a free throw line jump shot as the shot clock expired to put the Pioneers up 66-55. Denver made their free throws down the stretch and came away with a 72-62 victory.

The Jackrabbits played well defensively holding the Pioneers to 39.3% shooting from the field, but they were unable to make shots on the other end. SDSU shot 36.9% from the field and were 2-25.

“We had a lot of good looks and that’s kind of been our story all year. It’d be hard to ask for many more wide open shots that we just don’t make or didn’t make and I think that would have changed things early. When we were making those, we just didn’t do enough to get us back in the game,” Johnston said. 

Another stat that led to the Jacks demise was turnovers. SDSU had 19 total turnovers. Point guard Rylie Cascio Jensen led the way with seven.

“I need to take care of the ball, as a point guard especially,” Cascio Jensen said. “They put pressure on me and definitely made me lose the ball a couple times, but I just need to do better in that area.” 

Denver (11-14, 5-7) was led by Madison Nelson who had 27 points and nine rebounds. Nelson, a senior, said this win meant so much to her because SDSU was the only team in the Summit League she had not beaten yet.

“It was a really big deal for our team for a lot of reasons. … We’ve had some rough bumps along this season, but we also knew that we could do something like this. I think this was exactly what we needed to get right back on track,” Nelson said.

The Jacks were led by Tylee Irwin who had 14 points and six rebounds. Paiton Burckhard had 11 points and six rebounds. Tori Nelson had 11 points and five rebounds. Tagyn Larson finished with six points and five boards.

Burckhard was averaging 14.5 points per game and had 24 points in a 86-79 win against Denver on Jan. 9th. Larson was averaging 11.7 heading into the game. Johnston said Denver didn’t change their defense too much from the first game, but changed the way they played.

“They were way more active,” Johnston said. “They just got to some spots. They were in passing lanes. They doubled in the post, they fronted in the post, they did a lot of things there. We were so sluggish with decision making and passing. … They made a major effort to take away the inside effort for sure.”

SDSU is now 18-8 on the season and 10-2 in the Summit League with four games remaining in the regular season. They will host Purdue Fort Wayne on Saturday and will then head to North Dakota on Feb. 20th. The game that is circled on everyone’s calendars is on Feb. 22nd when No. 21 South Dakota comes to Brookings. SDSU will close out the regular season at North Dakota State on Feb. 27th.

Johston said he doesn’t want to use the term “wake-up call” when referring to the outcome of this game, but he does believe they can use it as a positive.

“I hope we play a little more determined from this game for sure. … I hope we play with more fight from this. There were still plenty of times where we could have made plays that impacted the game differently and we just didn’t. I thought we were a little flat, but hopefully this is a spring board to better basketball,” Johston said. 


Denver (11-14, 5-7)

Madison Nelson 8-21 10-12 27, Lauren Loven 5-8 2-2 14, Uju Ezeudu 2-6 3-4 7, Alexius Foster 3-4 0-0 7, Claire Gritt 2-7 2-2 6, Briana Johnson 2-6 0-0 4, Anna Jackson 1-1 1-2 3, Meghan Boyd 1-8 0-0 2, Sophia Zulich 0-0 2-2 2, Tsimba Alonga 0-0 0-0 0, Jasmine Jeffcoat 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 20-24 72.

South Dakota State (18-8, 10-2)

Tylee Irwin 5-17 3-4 14, Paiton Burckhard 4-9 3-3 11, Tori Nelson 5-12 1-2 11, Megan Bultsma 4-5 0-0 8, Rylie Cascio Jensen 2-5 0-0 6, Tagyn Larson 2-7 2-2 6, Sydney Stapleton 2-6 0-0 6, Lindsey Theuninck 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 24-65 9-11 62.

Denver 20 16 17 19 – 72

SDSU   19 18 10 15 – 62

3-point field goals – UD 4-23 (Loven 2-3, Jackson 1-2, Nelson 1-6, Ezeudu 0-1, Johnson 0-2, Gritt 0-4, Boyd 0-5), SDSU 5-25 (Cascio Jensen 2-5, Stapleton 2-6, Irwin 1-4, Nelson 0-3, Theuninck 0-3, Larson 0-4). Rebounds – UD 41 (Ezeudu 10), SDSU 41 (Irwin, Burckhard 6). Assists – UD 13 (Nelson, Loven, Ezeudu, Boyd, Jeffcoat 2), SDSU 15 (Cascio Jensen 4). Steals – UD 14 (Ezeudu 4), SDSU 9 (Irwin, Burckhard, Nelson 2). Blocks – UD 6 (Nelson 5), SDSU 2 (Larson). Turnovers – UD 15, SDSU 19. Total fouls – UD 18, SDSU 22. Fouled out – SDSU Nelson. Technical fouls – none. A – 1,628.


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