South Dakota State and North Dakota State will make one final push for seeding in the upcoming Summit League Championship when the longtime rivals meet Saturday in the regular season finale
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Bison Sports Arena on the NDSU campus in Fargo.
The Jackrabbits enter the matchup having won a season-best four games in a row and seven of eight in the second half of the Summit League season to move into sole possession of fourth place in the league standings. SDSU is 15-13 overall and 11-6 in league play. The Jackrabbits' 50-47 victory Feb. 21 at IPFW gave SDSU its 25th consecutive season with at least 15 wins. SDSU could move into the No. 3 seed with a win Saturday and an Oakland loss Saturday at Southern Utah or Monday (Feb. 28) at UMKC.
NDSU, meanwhile, was swept on its eastern road trip to IPFW and Oakland, and enters Saturday's contest 13-14 overall and 9-8 in The Summit League. The Bison can finish as high as fifth with a victory, or as low as seventh with a loss.
THE SERIES: Saturday's matchup marks the 72nd meeting in women's basketball between North Dakota State and South Dakota State. Longtime rivals at the NCAA Division II level in the North Central Conference and now at the Division I level as members of The Summit League, NDSU holds a 38-33 series advantage.
The Jackrabbits have narrowed the gap considerably during the Division I era, winning 10 consecutive meetings until NDSU recorded a 78-71 victory in the first meeting between the squads this season, Dec. 4 at Frost Arena.
The Bison ushered in the Division I era by sweeping the initial season series between the two squads as D-I foes during the 2004-05 season.
FIRST MEETING: The backcourt tandem of Danielle DeGagne and Katie Birkel combined for 45 points, lifting North Dakota State to a 78-71 victory over South Dakota State in the Summit League opener for both teams Dec. 4 at Frost Arena.
In ending a 10-game losing streak to SDSU, the Bison improved to 4-3 overall. The Jackrabbits, who suffered only their second home loss ever to a Summit League opponent, dropped to 3-4 overall.
After trading baskets and leads in the opening minutes, the final 10 minutes of the first half became a game of runs. The Bison grabbed a 20-13 lead behind the play of sophomore guard Danielle DeGagne, who scored 14 or her game-high 24 points in the first half. SDSU came right back with a 9-2 run, featuring five points from Macie Michelson to tie the game at 22.
NDSU, however, reeled off the next 12 points, bookended by three-pointers from Abby Plucker and Hannah Linz. Megan Waytashek ended the three-and-a-half-minute drought with a basket that helped spark a Jackrabbit run. SDSU scored six of the final seven points of the half to pull to within 39-34 at the break.
The Bison never relinquished the lead in the second half, although SDSU did tie game on one occasion. A DeGagne three-pointer with 8:30 to play in the game put NDSU back up by 10, 62-52.
Steph Paluch answered with a three-pointer to jump-start a 13-3 Jackrabbit run during which SDSU tied the game at 65-all as Kristin Rotert converted 1-of-2 free throws with 3:03 to play.
NDSU regained the lead for good its next trip down as Abby Plucker hit a jumper and went on to widen its lead back to 10 as the Jackrabbits missed six consecutive shot attempts in the closing minutes.
Birkel finished with 21 points for the Bison, who placed four players in double figures. Plucker tallied 15 and Hannah Linz added 12.
The Bison, who hovered around 60 percent shooting from the field most of the night, finished at 54.2 percent, making 26-of-48 attempts, including 7-of-14 from three-point range. At the line, NDSU made 19-of-26 tries, 73.1 percent.
SDSU was led by Jennie Sunnarborg, who scored 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field before fouling out. Michelson reached double figures for the first time this season with 13.
The Jackrabbits finished the night 26-of-61 from the field, 42.6 percent, but were only 6-of-23 from long range. SDSU ended the game 13-of-21 from the free throw line, 61.9 percent.
SDSU held a 35-28 rebounding advantage, with Leah Dietel tying a season high by pulling down a game-high nine boards. Plucker, Birkel and Janae Burich each grabbed six rebounds to lead the Bison.
JACKRABBITS ONLINE: Audio and video coverage of Saturday's game is scheduled to be available through the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com, the official website of SDSU athletics. Monthly subscriptions are $4.95 for audio only and $11.95 for both video and audio.
Radio coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. Central Time on the Jackrabbit Sports Network, with Tyler Merriam calling the play-by-play and former assistant coach Laurie Melum providing color commentary. Network stations carrying Monday's game include WNAX 570 in Yankton, KJJQ 910 AM in Brookings, KGFX 1060 AM in Pierre, KRKI 99.5 FM in Rapid City and Watertown-based KWAT 950 AM.
JACKRABBIT INSIDER: Throughout the 2010-11 women's basketball season, head coach Aaron Johnston will be a guest on the "Jackrabbit Insider," a weekly behind-the-scenes look at South Dakota State University athletics.
The half-hour television show which features interviews with Jackrabbit coaches and student-athletes, airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on Sioux Falls-based KTTW FOX 7. The show is also broadcast on FOX Sports North at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and on FOX College Sports Central at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays. Online, the show can be viewed at GoJacks.com.
YOUNG HONORED: Guard Jill Young was named Summit League Player of the Week after leading the Jackrabbit women's basketball team to a pair of key road victories.
A junior from Mitchell, Young averaged 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game as the Jackrabbits knocked off Oakland (Mich.) and IPFW. She opened the weekend by sinking 5-of-11 three-point attempts en route to 15 points in the win at Oakland on Feb. 19. Two nights later, Young posted her first career double-double with 15 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as the Jackrabbits upended second-place IPFW, 50-47.
Young shot 47 percent (8-for-17) on three-pointers to move into a tie for third place on the SDSU career three-point chart with 213. She has made a three-pointer in 19 consecutive games. Young also averaged two assists and one steal per game.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: During their current four-game winning streak, the Jackrabbit women's basketball team has been stingy on the defensive end.
SDSU is allowing only 46.5 points per game over the last four contests, giving up more than 50 points only once - 52 at Oakland on Feb. 19. Jackrabbit opponents are shooting a combined 31.8 percent (70-of-220) from the field, including 14-of-61, 23 percent, from three-point range.
Overall in Summit League games, the Jackrabbits lead the league in field goal percentage defense (38.1 percent) and rank second in scoring defense (59.4 ppg).
SUMMIT LEAGUE SUCCESS: South Dakota State has built an impressive Summit League résumé during its tenure in the 10-team conference.
Since joining the league at the start of the 2007-08 season, the Jackrabbits have compiled a 58-13 record in Summit League regular season games en route to outright league titles with records of 16-2 in 2007-08 and 17-1 during the 2008-09 season. SDSU also is a perfect 6-0 in Summit League postseason tournament games, winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Note: the Jackrabbits were not eligible for the conference tournament in 2008 as it was completing its final season of transition to Division I status.
In addition, SDSU has gone 31-5 at home against league foes and has won at least one game on every other Summit League member's home court.
SUMMIT LEAGUE POLL: The South Dakota State University women's basketball team was picked to finish second in the Summit League preseason poll, which was released in October.
Defending league regular season champion Oral Roberts (Okla.) received 26 of 30 first-place votes to take the top spot with 438 points in the poll conducted by league coaches, sports information directors and select media. SDSU tallied the other four first-place votes to place second with 393 points. Oakland (Mich.) was third with 336 points, followed by IPFW in fourth with 285 points and North Dakota State fifth with 274.
The bottom half of the conference consists of UMKC (253), Southern Utah and Western Illinois tied for seventh (162), IUPUI (99) and Centenary (La.) 48.
During the 2009-10 season, the Jackrabbits finished the regular season tied with Oakland for second place with a 14-4 mark. SDSU later knocked off top-seeded Oral Roberts in the finals of the Summit League Championship, 79-75 in overtime, to earn its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
SDSU guard Kristin Rotert was the lone Jackrabbit player on the preseason all-league team. A senior from Salem, Rotert is the Jackrabbits' top returning scorer after averaging 12.6 points per game during the 2009-10 season.
FEASTING IN FEBRUARY: The Jackrabbits have made a habit of ending the regular season strong throughout their time in Division I. With a 5-1 record in the month so far this season, SDSU has compiled a 43-4 record in February during its seven-year history of competing at the D-I level. That record included a 26-game winning streak in February that ended Feb. 22, 2010, at Oakland.
NEW LOWS: South Dakota State was held to its lowest scoring output in the Division I era, falling 73-40 to Purdue in the semifinals of the Preseason Women's NIT Nov. 18 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
SDSU's previous low scoring total in the Division I era was 50, set three times: vs. Rutgers (N.J.) and at Purdue in 2004-05 and at Colorado in 2005-06. The Jackrabbits' 40 points were the fewest points scored in any game since a 39-point night at Nebraska-Omaha during the 1981-82 campaign.
A last-second three-pointer by Megan Waytashek prevented SDSU's most lopsided loss in the Division I era (an 86-52, 34-point defeat at the hands of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2004-05).
The Jackrabbits also set a dubious standard for turnovers in the Divison I era with 38 in a 19-point loss at Middle Tennessee on Nov. 28. The previous mark was 33 in a loss at Summit League rival Oral Roberts during the 2009-10 season.
In addition, the Jackrabbits' 50 points scored in their Feb. 21 victory at IPFW marked the lowest scoring output in an SDSU win since the 1975-76 squad posted a 50-36 victory over Northern State.
ROTERT ON CAREER LISTS: Senior wing Kristin Rotert continues to move up the SDSU career lists for points and three-pointers.
The Salem native moved into second place on the Jackrabbit career three-point chart after sinking a season-high five three-pointers in the Jan. 15 victory at IUPUI, and enters Saturday's game with 239 for her career. Brenda Davis (2001-04) holds the career record with 250.
In league play this season, Rotert is shooting an even 49.4 percent from long range, 39-of-79, including going a combined 19-for-32, 59.4 percent, over the last six games. She sank a trey in 32 of the team's 33 games last season, ending the 2009-10 campaign with a team-high 72 three-pointers, including 14 in three Summit League tournament games.
Rotert set a then-freshman record with 58 three-pointers during the 2007-08 season and ranked second on the team with 60 treys as a sophomore.
Also last season, Rotert became the 29th player in Jackrabbit women's basketball history to score 1,000 points, reaching the milestone in the Summit League tournament semifinal against Western Illinois.With an average of 16.5 points over the last six games, Rotert has vaulted into 11th place on the career scoring charts at SDSU. The Salem native enters Saturday's game with 1,412 points after passing Nancy Joyce (1,411 points from 1977-80) in the Feb. 21 victory at IPFW. Tara Tessier is 10th with 1,424 points from 1985-88.
YOUNG FOR 3: Junior guard Jill Young has been a top-notch long range shooter for the Jackrabbits and enters Saturday's contest tied with Sherri Brende (1998-2001) for third place on the SDSU career three-point field goal charts with 213. Young, who has made 39 three-pointers over the last 12 games, broke a tie with Megan Vogel (194 three-pointers from 2004-07) by tying a career high with seven three-pointers Feb. 7 at Oral Roberts. With a streak of making at least one trifecta in 19 straight games, Young has upped her season total to 69 - seventh most in program history. Young also owns the third- (82 in 2008-09) and 11th-best (62 in 2009-10) single-season three-point totals at SDSU.
SDSU's representative on the Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team, Young was the lone Jackrabbit to score double figures in all three games, tallying 15 against Utah Valley, 13 versus Hampton and 12 at Purdue. For the tournament, she shot 54.5 percent (12-of-22) from the field, including 9-for-17 from three-point range. She finished with 13.3 points and 2.3 assists per game.
The Mitchell native ranked third among NCAA Division I players during the 2008-09
season by shooting at a 46.1 percent (82-of-178) clip from three-point range. Young's 82 made three-pointers also set a Jackrabbit freshman record, eclipsing the mark of 58 set by Kristin Rotert during the 2007-08 campaign.
For her career, Young is shooting 41.6 percent from three-point range, 213-of-512, including a team-best 69-of-165 - 41.8 percent - this season. She enters the weekend ranked 27th nationally for three-point percentage and has scored 913 career points.
THREE-POINT TANDEM: The Jackrabbits boast one of the top long-range shooting tandems in the history of The Summit League. Combined, Kristin Rotert (239) and Jill Young (213) have combined to make 452 career three-pointers. Individually, Rotert is fourth in the all-time Summit League annals, while Young stands 11th.
The IPFW duo of Jordan Zuppe (240) and Anne Boese (208) are right behind with 448 three-pointers among active duos. The all-time Summit League record for combined three-pointers by teammates is 467, set by the Oakland duo of Anne Hafeli (235) and Jayme Wilson (232) from 2003-06.
A native of Osseo, Minn., Sunnarborg leads the Jackrabbits in scoring with an average of 13.9 points per game, a figure bumped up to 14.6 points per league outing. She enters the weekend fourth in The Summit League by shooting 52.2 percent (153-of-293) from the field, a percentage that also ranks in the top 40 among Division I players.
Sunnarborg also leads the team with 40 blocked shots (1.48 bpg) this season as she has moved into eighth place on the Jackrabbit career blocked shots charts with 95.
Sunnarborg set a career high with 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field in the win over UMKC on Jan. 31. She has reached the 20-point mark six other times this season. Her streak of double-digit games ended at nine Feb. 7 at Oral Roberts, when she scored six.
In a season-opening win over Utah Valley on Nov. 12, Sunnarborg tallied 12 points and tied a career-high with six blocked shots.
LINGLE MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Sophomore center Katie Lingle has given the Jackrabbits an additional low-post presence during the second half of the season.
Since initially cracking the starting lineup Dec. 31 at UMKC, Lingle has averaged 8.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots over 13 games, including 10 starts. In that first career start, Lingle posted the first double-double by an SDSU player this season with 10 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
After missing two games due to injury, the Pierre native returned to the lineup Jan. 29 against Southern Utah and contributed seven points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. She then established a new career high for scoring in back-to-back games, tallying 14 points at Centenary (La.) on Feb. 5 and 16 at Oral Roberts two nights later.
She turned in her second double-double of the season at Oakland on Feb. 19, tallying 10 points and 11 rebounds.
COACH AARON JOHNSTON: Now in his 11th season as head coach of the South Dakota State University women's basketball team, Aaron Johnston has taken the Jackrabbit program to the top of NCAA Division II and is leading SDSU to national prominence at the Division I level.
Johnston enters Saturday's matchup against North Dakota State with a career record of 262-89 (.746 winning percentage), ranking second on the SDSU career victories list behind his predecessor, Nancy Neiber, who compiled a 301-140 record in 16 seasons from 1985-2000. Johnston posted his 200th career victory on Dec. 4, 2008, against Centenary (La.) and No. 250 on Nov. 24, 2010, versus Illinois State. His career totals have included a 58-13 record (.817 winning percentage) in Summit League regular season games and a 16-6 mark (.727 winning percentage) in postseason games. He also is 16-7 against North Dakota State.
A sophomore guard from Sioux Falls, Eide earned a spot on the squad with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average while majoring in health, physical education and recreation. A total of 17 players were honored on the University Division first, second and third teams.
On the court, Eide has played in 20 games with nine starts, and is averaging 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. She has missed the last four games due to injury.
Eide's selection marks the fifth straight season the Jackrabbits have had a player named to the Academic All-District team, joining Megan Vogel (2007), Courtney Grimsrud (2008), Jennifer Warkenthien (2009), Ashlea Muckenhirn (2009) and Ketty Cornemann (2010). Vogel and Warkenthien were later honored as Academic All-Americans.
Selections to the Capital One (formerly ESPN) Academic All-District VII Team are based on votes by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America from South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Student-athletes must be at least a sophomore in athletic standing, maintain a minimum grade-point average of 3.3 and be a starter or key reserve to be nominated.
THE ROSTER: The 2010-11 SDSU women's basketball roster features 13 players from two different states. Of the 13 players, seven are from South Dakota and six are from Minnesota. By class, three are seniors, two are juniors, four are sophomores, one is a redshirt freshman and three are incoming freshmen.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits will be in search of their third consecutive Summit League crown as the Summit League Championships return to Sioux Falls March 5-8. Matchups will be determined following play on Feb. 28.
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