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Jackrabbit women outpace USD, advance to Summit League tourney title game

Mar. 11—SIOUX FALLS — The South Dakota State women's basketball team's dominance in the Summit League continued on Monday, and for the third time this year, it came at the expense of in-state rivals South Dakota.

The Jackrabbits won their 20th game in a row and stayed one step ahead of the Coyotes to clinch a spot in the Summit League tournament championship game with a 76-63 victory at the Premier Center.

The Jackrabbits (26-5) led for 90% of the game, won their fifth consecutive game in the rivalry series and improved to 6-3 all-time in the Summit tournament against USD. The latest victory puts the top-seeded blue and yellow up against either No. 2 North Dakota State at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday for the conference tournament title and the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. The Bison won 75-66 over Oral Roberts in the other semifinal.

SDSU's dominant duo of conference player of the year Brooklyn Meyer and Paige Meyer proved to be the difference on Tuesday. Brooklyn Meyer, a sophomore, had 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting, while the point guard Meyer had 20 points, seven assists and five steals. SDSU's Madison Mathiowetz had 10 points.

Despite SDSU leading by as many as 15 points early in the fourth quarter, USD never went away in the game but could never string together the key baskets to catch the Jacks. Grace Larkins had a nifty left-handed shot from the lane with 2:28 left to draw the Coyotes to within five points. But on the next possession, SDSU sophomore Ellie Colbeck drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to stretch the lead back to eight points and the Jacks were not meaningfully threatened again.

"Paige and Brooklyn require so much attention from other teams and what Ellie and Maddie have done making shots has been fantastic this year," SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said. "They've made them in big moments, key shots. Understands what their role is and knows when to step up in key moments."

While Monday was USD's 10th time in the Summit League semifinals, it is the first time the Coyotes have lost in the round. And while it was the 10th anniversary of the Coyotes' famous 2014 upset of the Jackrabbits at the Sioux Falls Arena on the way to USD's first conference title and NCAA tournament trip, history did not repeat itself.

"(We had) some untimely turnovers and something that didn't go our way that solidified it," USD coach Kayla Karius said. "We really battled them on the boards, kept them off the offensive glass. Love how we competed, love how we battled."

USD had 16 points from guard Nicole Avila-Ambrosi, 15 points from Larkins and 12 points from Carley Duffney. The Coyotes shot 40% from the field and were 6-for-22 on 3-pointers. The Coyotes (21-12) likely will have opportunities to continue postseason play, something that Karius said she hopes to pursue.

As for the championship game, in which SDSU will go for its 11th title since 2009 and its 13th NCAA bid in that period, the Jackrabbits will be ready.

"I think it's a championship game and we're going to bring our best effort and our best energy," Brooklyn Meyer said. "We're not going to let being tired stop us from doing what we need to do."