Jackrabbits Survive a Scare, Beat Western Illinois, Take Sole Possession of First Place in Summit League
When South Dakota was ripping off eight straight wins to start the Summit League season, none of those victories was closer than the Jacks 67-66 win at Western Illinois, as SDSU rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to win on a Steph Paluch layin in the final five seconds.
Saturday afternoon in Brookings, the Jackrabbits needed more second half heroics, as they rallied from as many as eight down to beat the Leathernecks 83-79.
The win, coupled with an IUPUI loss at South Dakota, moved the Jacks back into sole possession of first place in the Summit League.
South Dakota State scored the first six points of the game but then lost their shooting touch for most of the remainder of the first half, hitting just four of the next 17 from the floor to see a six -point lead turn into a six-point deficit.
University of Missouri transfer Tori Niemann led a red hot shooting effort for the Leathernecks in the first half, hitting 5-of-6 for 11 points, WIU shot 64 percent in the first 20 minutes.
To make matters worse, Jackrabbits leading scorer Megan Waytashek injured her left ankle in the first half, sending her to the locker room. She spent the second half on the bench sporting crutches.
Rebounding, free throw shooting, and Mariah Clarin kept the Jacks in it in the first half. SDSU was plus-8 on the boards and didn't allow WIU to get an offensive rebound, while the Jacks outscored the Leathernecks 10-2 from the line, and Clarin was the lone bright spot on offense, scoring 10 on 4-of-5 shooting. The rest of the SDSU starters were a combined 3-of-16 in the first half.
But despite their shooting woes, the Jacks were down just 35-34 at intermission.
Western Illinois wasted little time pushing the lead to eight in the second half, as the Summit League's 3rd leading scorer, Ashley Luke - shutout in the first half - scored seven in the first 4:30 of the second to make it 50-42 Leathernecks. She finished the half - and the game - with 20 points.
SDSU mounted a charge with Paluch and Tara Heiser each scoring five to even the score at 58 with 10:50 left.
Western stretched the advantage back to five, but again the Jacks had an answer, Heiser with a putback to give SDSU a lead at 74-73, then a 3-pointer by Kerri Young and a driving score by Paluch made it a 7-0 run and a 73-73 lead with 2:27 left.
But with the ball and a five point lead, the Jacks turned it over twice in the final 49 seconds, and WIU took advantage, trimming the lead to three, and with six seconds left Michelle Maher had a 3-point attempt to tie the game, but it missed, and SDSU held on for the victory.
Paluch, Clarin, and Heiser all finished with 14 points for the Jacks, who outrebounded Western Illinois 43-30, but did allow nine offensive rebounds in the second half. SDSU made up for allowing the Leathernecks to shoot 52 percent from the floor, by hitting 77 percent from the free throw line, outscoring WIU 20-12 at the charity stripe.
South Dakota State (19-8/10-1) is off until next Saturday when they host North Dakota State.