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Jackrabbits With An Eye On The WNIT Quarterfinals As They Host Minnesota

It’s not the NCAA Tournament, but South Dakota State is making the most of their opportunity to beat some pretty good teams in the WNIT.

With Butler and Creighton crossed off the list, the Jacks now set their sights on Minnesota in round three Thursday night.

Against the Bluejays Sunday, SDSU (24-9) got off to a slow start, one of many they’ve had this season.  But this one seemed a little different than the others as Creighton’s Sarah Nelson hit three early baskets while the Jacks got off some ugly shots in the first few minutes and trailed by as many as 12.

Head coach Aaron Johnston on his team’s early struggles:

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It was the second straight WNIT game the Jackrabbits shot under 37 percent, which meant once again it was up to the SDSU defense to rise to the occasion, and they did, forcing 13 straight missed shots from Creighton while forcing eight turnovers during a stretch of the end of the first half and beginning of the second half that saw South Dakota State reel off 28 straight points.

Coach Johnston says the improved defensive intensity came at just the right time:

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Minnesota (22-12) knows about fast starts, as they jumped on top of SMU 14-2 in Sunday’s WNIT second round game in Minneapolis, en route to a 77-70 win.

The Gophers had five players in double figures in the victory, including a career-high 22 points from guard Sari Noga and 12 boards from the Big Ten’s top rebounder Amanda Zahui.

Minnesota did lose guard Rachel Banham, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, for the last 15 minutes of the game with a sprained right foot, but she’s been cleared to play Thursday in Brookings.

Coach Johnston says she’s a crucial part of the Gophers success:

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For the third straight game the Jackrabbits are the home team, in a building where they’ve won 19 straight.  Johnston says there are some real advantages in playing at Frost Arena:

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Tipoff is 7:00pm Thursday at Frost Arena in Brookings.  The winner advances to play the Indiana – Northwestern winner in the quarterfinals.

CRAIG SMITH TAKES OVER THE SOUTH DAKOTA MEN'S PROGRAM

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