The Summit League regular season comes to a close Monday night as South Dakota State hosts Western Illinois on Military Appreciation Night at Frost Arena.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Frost Arena.
SDSU enters the matchup with the Summit League regular season title in their grasp with a 15-2 conference record. The Jackrabbits improved to 20-8 overall with a 66-52 home victory over IUPUI on Feb. 25.
Western Illinois, meanwhile, enters Monday's finale as part of a four-way tie for fifth place in the Summit League standings with a 7-10 conference mark after dropping a 73-53 decision at North Dakota State on Saturday. The Fighting Leathernecks, under the direction of first-year coach J.D. Gravina, are 11-17 overall.
THE SERIES: South Dakota State has held the upper hand in the all-time series against Western Illinois, one that began when the Jackrabbits joined The Summit League at the start of the 2007-08 season. SDSU dropped the first-ever meeting between the two squads, 67-60 on Jan. 14, 2008, but has since rattled off nine consecutive victories against WIU.
FIRST MEETING: South Dakota State put together a strong effort on both ends of the court, opening Summit League play with an 82-56 victory over Western Illinois on Nov. 30 in Macomb, Ill.
The Jackrabbits, who ended a two-game losing streak, improved to 4-3 overall and
1-0 in league play. WIU dropped to 2-4 on the season, 0-1 in The Summit League.
SDSU led wire to wire, scoring the first six points of the game and building a 17-8 lead in the first six-plus minutes. The Fighting Leathernecks trimmed the margin to 17-15, only to see SDSU close out the first half with a 19-4 run to take a 40-22 lead into intermission.
Aiding the Jackrabbits' big lead was a 30-13 rebounding advantage in the opening 20 minutes, along with 16 points from their reserves.
The Jackrabbits continued to receive production up and down their lineup in the second half as all 12 players to see action scored and grabbed at least one rebound. Jill Young started the final stanza with a three-pointer and Leah Dietel gave SDSU's its largest lead of the night, a 27-point advantage at 59-32, with a traditional three-point play at the 12:29 mark.
Jennie Sunnarborg recorded game highs of 16 points and eight rebounds to lead SDSU. Young and Dietel each tallied 11, while Ashley Eide and Steph Paluch contributed nine points apiece.
SDSU finished the game 34-of-66 percent from the field, 51.5 percent, including 5-of-13 from three-point range. The Jackrabbits also were efficient at the free throw line, making all nine attempts.
The Jackrabbits ended the night with a 46-22 advantage in the rebounding department, with Katie Lingle pulling down seven in a winning effort.
Sadie Webb and Valencia Kelly each reached double figures in scoring for WIU, tallying 12 and 10 points, respectively. The Fighting Leathernecks finished the game 20-of-54 from the field, 37 percent, including a 5-of-14 effort from behind the arc. WIU was 11-of-16 at the line, 68.8 percent.
MEDIA COVERAGE: Audio and video coverage of Monday's game is scheduled to be available via the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com, the official website of SDSU Athletics. Monthly subscriptions for the Jackrabbit Extra, which includes live audio and video streaming of select contests are available for $11.95 per month or $99.95 for an entire year of coverage.
A pay-per-view option for video streaming also is available through the Jackrabbit Extra for $4.95.
Local radio coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. Central Time on the Jackrabbit Sports Network, with J.J. Hartigan calling the play-by-play. Besides network flagship WNAX 570 AM, the game can be heard on the following Jackrabbit Sports Network affiliates:
* KJJQ 910 AM-Brookings
* KRKI 99.1 FM-Rapid City
* KGFX 1060 AM-Pierre
* KSDR 1480 AM-Watertown
JACKRABBIT INSIDER: Throughout the 2011-12 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 8 p.m. Tuesdays and on FOX College Sports Central at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays. Online, the show can be viewed at GoJacks.com.
NEW RADIO SHOW DEBUTS: South Dakota State head coach Aaron Johnston also will be a weekly guest on the "Jackrabbit Basketball Coaches Show," a radio show which will air live from Cubby's Sports Bar and Grill in downtown Brookings and will run from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays on the Jackrabbit Sports Network.
An audio stream of the show also will be available via the Jackrabbit Extra.
OPENING SUCCESS: The Jackrabbits' 74-35 victory over St. Cloud State in the 2011-12 season opener at Frost Arena on Nov. 11 marked the 19th consecutive season SDSU opened with a win.
The last time the Jackrabbits lost a season opener was during the 1992-93 season, when they fell 74-72 to Moorhead State (Minn.).
NEW LOWS: The Jackrabbits' 22 points in a loss to Cincinnati on Nov. 24 was by far the lowest point total by an SDSU squad during the Division I era and the lowest with a shot clock in use. The previous low was 40 points - also in a 33-point loss - at Purdue (Ind.) on Nov. 18, 2010, in the semifinals of the Preseason Women's NIT.
Overall, the 22 points were the third fewest in a game in school history. Ironically, the Jackrabbits won both of the games in which they scored fewer points: an 18-14 decision over Buena Vista (Iowa) during the inaugural 1966-67 season and a 19-6 victory over Huron during the 1967-68 campaign.
Against Kansas State on Dec. 10, the Jackrabbits could muster a shooting percentage of only 21.6 percent - their worst shooting performance in the Division I era. SDSU missed its first 16 shots from the field and finished the first half 2-of-25 from the floor.
RECEIVING VOTES: South Dakota State received votes in two different national
preseason polls. The Jackrabbits received three votes in the Nov. 15 ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, and tallied 27 points in the Women's Mid-Major Top 25 poll conducted by collegeinsider.com.
For the second week in a row, the Jackrabbits are ranked 24th in the weekly CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, which is sprinkled with SDSU opponents. In the Feb. 21 poll, Middle Tennessee State moved up a spot to sixth and Marist (N.Y.) rose two spots to No. 15. Preseason Summit League favorite Oral Roberts, which dropped out of the top 25 a week ago, is still receiving votes.
812 AND COUNTING: SDSU's victory over Oakland on Dec. 29 was the 800th in the women's basketball program's history. Since the modern era of women's basketball at South Dakota State University began with a 6-0 mark during the 1966-67 season, the Jacks have gone on to compile an overall record of 812-366 (.689 winning percentage).
In addition, SDSU has sealed its 26th consecutive winning season between competing at the NCAA Division II and Divsion I levels.The Jackrabbits' last losing season was an 11-16 campaign during the 1985-86 season.
160 D-I WINS: Since moving up to the NCAA Division I ranks at the start of the 2004-05 season, the Jackrabbits have posted a winning record against D-I opponents. In its seven-plus seasons competing at the Division I level, SDSU has compiled a 162-65 mark (.714 winning percentage) versus D-I opposition. The Jackrabbits have posted victories over 54 different Division I teams representing 20 conferences plus independents.
TOUGH AT HOME: The Jackrabbit women's basketball team has gained a decisive home-court advantage at Frost Arena over the past decade.
In his tenure as Jackrabbit head coach, Johnston has led the Jackrabbits to a 148-22 record (.871 winning percentage) at Frost Arena, including a 93-13 mark (.877 winning pct.) at home during the Division I era. The Jackrabbits have put together home winning streaks of 15, 15 and 22 in the process. Their current home winning streak is nine.
Since the start of the 2001-02 season, SDSU has a 137-17 home record (.890 winning percentage), losing an average of less than two games at Frost Arena each full
season. The Jackrabbits capped the 2008-09 regular season with a 14-0 record - a mark that stands as the first undefeated home season in school history.
A loss to Western Kentucky early in the 2009-10 campaign snapped a 35-game
regular season home winning streak, as well as a 15-game overall winning streak that began after SDSU lost to Creighton (Neb.) in the first round of the 2008 Women's NIT.
SDSU's loss to Oral Roberts on Jan. 4, 2010, marked its first home loss to a Summit League opponent.
FEASTING IN FEBRUARY: The Jackrabbits have made a habit of ending the regular season strong throughout their time in Division I. In its eight-year history of competing at the Division I level, SDSU has compiled a 49-5 record in February. That record included a 26-game winning streak in February that ended Feb. 22, 2010, at Oakland.
BATTLE OF THE BOARDS: The Jackrabbits enter the week as the top rebounding team in The Summit League, out-rebounding their opponents by 6.8 boards per game overall and 9.0 per league contest.
The Jackrabbits had their streak of holding a rebounding advantage end at seven games in the Dec. 21 loss at Nebraska, but again controlled the boards in their Dec. 29 matchup against Oakland. Overall, the Jackrabbits have out-rebounded their opponents in 22 of their 28 games this season, posting an 18-4 record when winning the battle of the boards.
The Jackrabbits have held a double-digit rebounding advantage 10 times this
season, including each of their first four Summit League games. SDSU put together a dominating 46-22 advantage against Western Illinois on Nov. 30 and held a 41-27 edge versus Oakland in their Dec. 29 matchup.
TOEING THE LINE: Despite some struggles early in the season at the free throw line, the Jackrabbits have been one of the most efficient teams at the stripe during Summit League play.
In 17 league games, SDSU ranks third among the league's 10 teams by shooting 76.6 percent (281-of-367) at the free throw line, starting with a 9-for-9 effort Nov. 30 at Western Illinois. The Jacks have shot above 80 percent in eight games, including 23-of-25 (92 percent) efforta at IPFW on Jan. 28, during which they started a string of 27 consecutive made free throws, and again on Feb. 25 versus IUPUI. SDSU ranks first in made free throws and second in free throw attempts during league play.
The Jackrabbits set a single-game school record with 48 free throw attempts in their Jan. 14 game against UMKC. The team's 34 makes were two off the school mark. In the Feb. 11 rematch versus UMKC, SDSU made 23-of-24 free throws tries in the second half and finished the game 29-of-33 overall, 87.9 percent.
Individually Jill Young is shooting 87.5 percent (42-of-48) from the stripe in league games, while Jennie Sunnarborg is at 80.7 percent (92-of-114).
BENCH POINTS: South Dakota State reserves have played a key role in the Jackrabbits sporting a 20-8 record this season. A relatively young and inexperienced Jackrabbit bench has outscored the opponent's reserves in 20 games this season, including holding a 233-90 combined advantage over the last 10 games. Overall, the Jackrabbits have outscored opposing reserves by 180 points, 512-332, thus far during the 2011-12 season.
Since moving into a reserve role at the close of the calendar year, junior center Katie Lingle has held at least a share of the team lead in bench points in eight of the last 14 contests, including a 13-point outing Feb. 25 against IUPUI.
Freshman wing Rachel Walters held at least a share of the top output off the bench for the third time in four games and seventh time this season with nine points in the Feb. 4 win over Southern Utah. Walters reached double figures for the first time in the Jan. 20 win at North Dakota State, scoring 10 points as she sank three trifectas. Walters set a career high with 12 points — all on three-pointers — in the Jackrabbits' Jan. 30 win at Oakland.
DOUBLE DUTY: For only the second time in the Division I era, two Jackrabbit players turned in double-double performances in the same game.
Jennie Sunnarborg and Ashley Eide accomplished the feat Feb. 11 in a victory at UMKC. Sunnarborg tallied 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, while Eide posted totals of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Sunnarborg also had a hand in the initial double-double tandem. In a Jan. 23, 2010, win over Oakland, Sunnarborg collected 20 points and 11 rebounds. Maria Boever was the other half of the duo with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
In all, four different Jackrabbit players have posted double-doubles this season. Katie Lingle was the first SDSU player to turn in a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds against IPFW on Dec. 31, while Jill Young tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds versus Oral Roberts on Feb. 6.
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 74-15 record (.831 winning percentage) 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. In addition, SDSU has gone 39-5 at home (.886 winning percentage) against league foes and has won at least one game on every other Summit League member's home court with the exception of first-year member South Dakota.
YOUNG REACHES MILESTONES: Senior guard Jill Young has reached a pair of milestones during the 2011-12 season.
The Mitchell native became the 30th member of the Jackrabbit Women's Basketball 1,000-Point Club when she sank a first-half three-pointer during South Dakota State's win over Washington State on Nov. 20.
Young enters Monday's game against IUPUI in 18th place on the Jackrabbit career scoring chart with 1,284 points, after passing both Carleen Rose (1,281 points from 1990-93) and Erin Reiten (1,281 points from 1993-96) in the Feb. 25 game versus IUPUI.
Young has been a top-notch long range shooter throughout her collegiate career and has set a new Jackrabbit standard with 288 career three-pointers, breaking the previous record of 250 held by both Brenda Davis (2001-04) and Kristin Rotert (2008-11) in the Dec. 29 game against Oakland. Her 288 three-pointers also rank as the second-most all-time in Summit League history as Young trails current IPFW standout Anne Boese (298 three-pointers).
Through the first 28 games of the season, Young leads the squad with 66 three-pointers and ranks 22nd nationally in three-point percentage at 38.9 percent (66-of-169). She tied a career high with seven three-pointers in the Nov. 11 season opener against St. Cloud State. In the 12 games since setting the new Jackrabbit standard Dec. 29 against Oakland, Young is a combined 35-for-79 (44.3 percent) from long distance. She made
6-of-11 attempts in a Dec. 31 home game versus IPFW, then went 4-of-9 Jan. 7 at Oral Roberts and 5-of-10 at Southern Utah two days later.
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.
For her career, Young is shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range, 288-of-704, including a team-best 78-of-188 - 41.4 percent - last season to rank 21st nationally for three-point percentage.
Young also has been an 83.1 percent (226-of-272) career shooter from the free throw line. She has shot well above her career average this season, making 89.9 percent (71-of-79) of her attempts.
SUNNY SIDE UP: Senior forward Jennie Sunnarborg has led the Jackrabbits in scoring throughout much of the 2011-12 season. A native of Osseo, Minn., Sunnarborg has upped her scoring average to a team-best 14.1 points per game after averaging 16.8 points per game in Summit League play. She is shooting 80.1 percent (125-of-156) overall from the free throw line, ranking ninth on the SDSU charts for single-season free throws.
Sunnarborg also is contributing a team-best 6.3 rebounds per game after setting a single-game career high with 13 boards at UMKC on Feb. 11 and again Feb. 13 at South Dakota.
On the career charts, Sunnarborg became the 31st player in Jackrabbit women's basketball history to reach the 1,000-point mark, accomplishing the feat Jan. 14 against UMKC with a career-high 31 points. She enters the week with 1,153 career points, good for 26th place on the Jackrabbit career scoring charts. Next on the list is Rachel Halsrud, who scored 1,154 points from 1991-94.
Sunnarborg also has moved into sole possession of sixth place in career blocked shots at South Dakota State with 107, passing former teammate Jennifer Warkenthien (105 blocked shots from 2006-09) Feb. 11 at UMKC.
In 17 Summit League games, Sunnarborg is averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest, while shooting 49.5 percent (91-of-184) from the field. Prior to her career night against UMKC on Jan. 14, Sunnarborg recorded a pair of season-high 23-point outings. In a Dec. 2 victory at IUPUI, Sunnarborg scored 23 points and added five rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot. On Jan. 7, Sunnarborg again tallied 23 points, including a perfect 9-for-9 performance at the free throw line. Two days later, at Southern Utah, Sunnarborg tallied a game-high 22 points. Her 20-point performance in the Feb. 25 win over IUPUI marked the eighth time this season and 17th time in her career she reached the 20-point mark.
Sunnarborg also compiled a 22-point, four-rebound performance against Washington State on Nov. 20, in which she made the go-ahead basket with 1:05 remaining in the game. She also was 12-for-14 at the free throw line in the Jackrabbit victory.
Sunnarborg broke out of a four-game slump with a 20-point, seven-rebound performance against nationally ranked Nebraska on Dec. 21, followed by a 21-point, six-rebound night against Oakland on Dec. 29.
EIDE ON THE MARK: Junior guard Ashley Eide has put together a strong season for the Jackrabbit women's basketball team, leading the team in field goal percentage (49.1 percent), ranking second in assists (61), steals (32), three-pointers (26) and rebounding (4.8 rpg), and third in scoring (10.9 ppg).
Eide was named Summit League Player of the Week following her 21-point, five-rebound performance at nationally ranked Nebraska on Dec. 21. She was 9-of-14 from the field, including 3-for-3 from three-point range. Eide added two assists and two steals in 30 minutes of action.
She tallied double figures for the fifth consecutive game with 12 points in the Dec. 31 win over IPFW. Eide made a pair of three-pointers, while adding nine rebounds and a career-high seven assists. On Jan. 20 at North Dakota State, Eide turned in another strong all-around performance, tallying game highs of 20 points and seven rebounds, while adding three assists and three steals.
The Sioux Falls native was impressive in the season opening weekend, tying a career high with six assists in the season-opening win over St. Cloud State on Nov. 11, then pouring in a career-high 27 points with eight rebounds in the Jackrabbits' victory over Utah State. Eide did not miss a two-point shot in the two games, going a combined 11-for-11. She also was 3-of-8 on three-point attempts to finish the weekend 14-of-19 (73.7 percent) overall from the field.
Eide continued her strong play by averaging 11 points and 3.5 rebounds during the opening week of Summit League play. She scored nine points at Western Illinois on Nov. 30, then went 5-of-7 from the field en route to 13 points in the Dec. 2 victory at IUPUI.
PALUCH IN A NEW ROLE: After handling the bulk of the point guard duties for the Jackrabbits through the first half of the 2011-12 season, junior Steph Paluch has played at her more natural two-guard position the last seven games.
A Pierre native, Paluch leads the team with 39 steals (1.39 spg) and 68 assists (2.44 apg), including recording a career-high eight assists in SDSU's 63-58 win over Washington State on Nov. 20. Paluch also has contributed averages of 6.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Her five steals Dec. 2 at IUPUI established a new career high and are the most by a Jackrabbit player this season.
Paluch tallied career highs of 18 points, five rebounds and four three-pointers in the Jackrabbits' victory over North Dakota State on Feb. 18. She had her streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer end at nine games in the Feb. 25 contest against IUPUI - a span in which she had shot 48.3 percent (14-of-29) from behind the arc.
COACH AARON JOHNSTON: Now in his 12th full 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 Monday's game against Western Illinois with a career record of 286-98 (.745 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 74-15 record (.831 winning percentage) in Summit League regular season games and a 16-7 mark (.696 winning percentage) in NCAA or WNIT postseason games. He is 9-1 against Western Illinois.
The Summit League Coach of the Year in each of the Jackrabbits' first two seasons in the 10-team league, Johnston was named a finalist for the 2009 Naismith Award as the nation's top coach. SDSU tied a school record for victories in a season with 32 during the 2008-09 campaign and gained national attention by vaulting into the top 25 in December after non-conference victories over the likes of Wisconsin, Utah, Minnesota and Gonzaga (Wash.). The Jackrabbits were ranked in the final 13 USA Today/ESPN regular season coaches' polls, climbing as high as 14th in the coaches' poll and 16th in the Associated Press poll. SDSU finished the 2008-09 season ranked 19th in the coaches' poll.
Along the way to a 32-3 overall record, the Jackrabbits received national media coverage from CBS Sports, USA Today, ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times.
A native of Pine Island, Minn., “A.J.” earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. After serving one year as an assistant coach at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, he moved on to SDSU as a graduate assistant for the Jackrabbit men’s basketball team for two seasons before becoming assistant women’s coach. He also coached the SDSU golf teams one year.
THE ROSTER: The 2011-12 SDSU women’s basketball roster features 13 players from two different states. Of the 13 players, seven are from Minnesota and six are from South Dakota. By class, two are seniors, four are juniors, three are sophomores, one is a redshirt freshman and three are incoming freshmen.
A LOOK AHEAD: As the top seed, the Jackrabbits will play the opening game of the Summit League Basketball Championship Saturday in Sioux Falls. Tipoff is slated for 12:05 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Arena.
Pairings will be finalized after Monday’s slate of games is concluded.