The first trip thru the 2017 Summit League schedule ends this week for the South Dakota State women's basketball team, as the Jackrabbits try to maintain at least a share of first place.

To do it, they'll have to beat teams on opposite ends of the standings.

Tonight (January 18) in Denver, the Jacks battle a Pioneer team (4-14/1-4) that has been struggling lately. Denver has dropped eight of its last nine and are the worst rebounding team in the conference.

Freshman Lauren Loven has been a bright spot, she's made more three-pointers than anyone in the league so far on a team that shoots the long ball pretty well. The Pioneers have topped 40 percent from behind the arc in nine of their last ten games.

In Denver's last game, they allowed IUPUI to make ten three's and grab 13 offensive rebounds leading to 18 second chance points.

Tipoff is 8:00 PM (CT) in Denver.

The Jackrabbits return home Saturday (January 21) to battle Western Illinois.

The Leathernecks (15-4/5-1) are one of three teams (South Dakota, South Dakota State) that enter the week with just one loss in conference play. They have won ten-of-eleven overall.

Western has a high powered offense that has topped 100 points four times this season. They have the number one offense and top three-point shooting team in the Summit League

Guard Emily Clemens is having a breakthrough season. The junior is in the top ten in scoring in the conference, scoring 20 points or better in her last three games. She also leads the Summit in steals, assists, and the fewest turnovers. She's the league's second best free throw shooter.

Junior forward Olivia Braun leads the conference in blocked shots.

Tipoff is 2:00 PM, in Brookings.

Last Wednesday (January 11), SDSU thumped IUPUI 68-49 to open week three of conference action.

The Jackrabbits jumped out early, hitting four of their first six shots to open up an early six-point lead. But the SDSU defense was the story in the first quarter, as the Jaguars had more turnovers (7) than shot attempts (5) in the first 10 minutes, scoring just 10 points.

The Jackrabbit lead had been trimmed to just three with 3:50 to play in the first half, when SDSU went on a long run, scoring the last seven points of the first half and opening the second half by outscoring IUPUI 21-5 in the third quarter, then opening up the fourth with a three-pointer to push the lead to 29 points. In all, the Jacks outscored the Jaguars 24-5 over a time span of 14:20.

Kerri Young led the offensive charge with 20 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. She was 8-of-12 from the floor, scoring over 20 points for the second straight game.

Center Clarissa Ober returned to the lineup after missing four games with an injury. She came off the bench to score 13 points and grab four rebounds in 17 minutes of action.

Overall, SDSU was plus-10 on the boards and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, leading to 13 second chance points. They allowed IUPUI to shoot just 37 percent, including just 2-of-15 from behind the three-point arc, while holding the conference's sixth leading scorer, Danielle Lawrence to just 2-of-12 from the floor, while center Mikale Rogers took just nine shots, seven below her average.

Saturday (January 14) at Oral Roberts, Ober was back in the starting lineup and she helped set the tone offensively, getting to the free throw line early and often as SDSU led by as many as 11 in the first quarter.

In the second ten minutes, the Jackrabbit bench did a lot of the heavy lifting, as Eno Viso, Syndey Tracy, and Sydney Palmer combined for 14 of South Dakota State's 21 points, to pace the Jacks to a 17-point halftime lead.

SDSU was solid in nearly every phase of the game in the wire-to-wire 78-57 victory. They were plus-three on the boards and plus-six in the paint against a very strong inside team. The Jacks were also 17-of-18 from the free throw line.

I talked with Jackrabbits Coach Aaron Johnston about last week's games and this week's match-ups with Denver and Western Illinois: