TULSA — One of the big questions heading into South Dakota State’s game against Oral Roberts was who would step up after their third season-ending injury last weekend.
But while the Jackrabbits adjusted in their second game with a new lineup, they also adapted to their style of play, shooting 61 percent from the floor and having six players score in double figures in a 103-77 win over the Golden Eagles at the Mabee Center on Saturday afternoon.
“We had a really good week of practice and a couple of days off that I think were helpful, especially for the pace that this game played out,” head coach Aaron Johnston said. “I thought we were really prepared. The team felt confident in what their role is going to be and what we were going to try to get done.”
The storyline coming into the week was the Jacks’ new rotation when Madysn Vlastuin tore her ACL in the closing seconds of SDSU’s win over North Dakota State on Feb. 1. While the Jacks were able to pick up a victory over South Dakota on Feb. 3, the Jacks also continued to be without Haleigh Timmer and Katie Theisen also out for the season.
But the Jacks continued to adapt to their new lineuo taking a 20-10 lead on Madison Mathiowetz’s 3-pointer with 5:19 left in the opening quarter and using a perfect 6-for-6 performance from 3-point range to cruise to a 34-23 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 48-36 lead at halftime.
“When you go out there and make shots like we did, that was a big part of it,” Johnston said of the first-half performance. “...But they’re all wide-open shots. They’re not under duress kind of shots and that speaks towards our ball movement and speaks towards the chaos that they play with and us handling that just to find open people. It’s hard to make that many of them, but boys, they were really good looks and I thought our team was ready for that.”
The Golden Eagles made their move, cutting the lead down to 50-41 on Hannah Cooper’s free throws with 8:52 left in the third quarter but SDSU went on a 10-3 run to break the game open and used a balanced attack to finish the Golden Eagles off.
Mathiowetz finished with a career-high 22 points and Ellie Colbeck also set a career-high with 19 points in the game. While Paige Meyer finished with 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds, Brooklyn Meyer finished with 18 points and six rebounds and Tori Nelson also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Mesa Byom (10 points, eight rebounds) also scored in double figures while Jenna Hopp (five points, three rebounds, one assist) and Tori Tollefson (two points, one rebound, one assist, one steal) provided valuable minutes off the bench, leaving Johnston impressed with his team’s contributions throughout the roster.
“We just have people that are playing with wild confidence,” Johnston said. “[Mathiowetz] shot the ball incredibly well today. Ellie shot the ball incredibly well today. We’ve got enough balance inside with Mesa and Brooklyn. What they were doing with Paige, you know if you’re going to get up and press…she’s going to make you pay and everybody’s just playing well in their role and our bench was great.”
Taleyah Jones led Oral Roberts with 26 points, two steals and two rebounds in the game while Cooper finished with 17 points, five assists, three rebounds and a steal. Jalei Oglesby also finished with 10 points, five rebounds and an assist for the Golden Eagles.
While the Jacks held Oral Roberts to 41 percent from the floor – including 25 percent (7-for-28) on 3-pointers – and forced 10 turnovers, they also dominated the glass enjoying a 43-24 advantage on rebounds in the win.
With the complete effort, Johnston liked his team’s ability to adapt to the matchup and felt like they could win playing any style that was thrown at them.
“I think we can play a lot of different styles,” Johnston said. “We can slow things down and be more half-court orientated or we can play a much faster pace as we saw here today. We can defend a variety of different ways and that helps because in our league, you see a bunch of different styles and this is probably more of the unique ones. It’s just a chaotic game and you better have players can execute and play well when they’re uncomfortable and I thought we did a great job of that tonight.”
After picking up their 12th straight win to improve to 18-5 on the year, the Jacks will put their undefeated conference record on the line when they return to Frost Arena to host Kansas City on Thursday night.
The last meeting with the Roos ended with a 72-49 win in Kansas City but both teams got off to a slow start offensively, which should bring another challenge on Thursday night.
“It’s a whole different style of defense,” Johnston said. “They just got into us down in Kansas City and we struggled, so we’ll have to get a little better play against it and we have some time to get ready for it.”