An intense battle Monday night saw the IUPUI Lady Jaguars defeat the Southern Utah Thunderbirds 56-49. The Thunderbirds entered the game without a single Summit League victory, but early on it looked like they might steal one from the Jaguars. A determined Jaguar squad, that had just beaten Oral Roberts on Saturday, stepped up their play and made a second half run to get the win.
The Thunderbirds came to The Jungle ranked first in rebounding in the Summit League, and they showed why in the first half, out-rebounding the Jaguars 22-12. Southern Utah made the most of their height advantage and led IUPUI by as much as eight.
“It was tough cuz we knew Southern Utah was going to come in thinking they could pick up a win here and they thought we might still be celebrating from the ORU win”, said senior Kerah Nelson, who finished the game with 15 points and five rebounds.
After trailing by two at half time, the Jaguars came out looking poised for another win. It wouldn’t come without a few adjustments though. IUPUI kicked up the defensive effort and forced 16 second half turnovers, including seven steals.
“Give coach Benge credit because he’s in charge of our defense. I let him talk (during the timeouts) because what I was saying wasn’t working,” said IUPUI head coach Austin Parkinson. “We had to get pressure in the ball; we’re not big enough to stay behind their big posts. But when we got pressure on the ball they weren’t able to see inside.”
The Jaguars also picked things up on the offensive end of the court. After shooting just 34 percent from the field in the first half, the Jags showed patience with the ball and shot almost 48 percent in the second half.
“First half we came out a little lethargic so we had to pick it up. At halftime we all said, ‘Hey, we need to pick it up or we’re going to lose to a team that’s 0-6 in conference,’” Nelson added.
One player who took this comment to heart was true freshman Nevena Markovic. Markovic led the team with 18 points, including hitting twice from behind the 3-point arc. She also pitched in with a team-high six rebounds.
“That’s good, a freshman stepping up, she’s played well lately. Nev is one of our better shooters so it’s good to see her playing that way,” said Nelson.
A day that started off great for sophomore Katie Comello by being named CollegeSportsMadness.com Mid-Major and Summit League Player of the Week after her impressive 28 points against Oral Roberts, ended in poor fashion. After leading the Jaguars with 12 points, a collision with a Southern Utah player on a layup left Comello on the floor, holding her ankle. Coach Parkinson had no update on Comello’s ankle after the game but a teammate later confirmed that Comello will have x-rays taken in the morning.
Overall it was an impressive win for the Lady Jaguars and a great home stand.
“Well it’s funny because I brought a broom with me to practice yesterday and they looked at me like I was crazy. It’s been since 08-09 since we’ve swept a 2 game stretch. We came in and beat a team we weren’t supposed to beat (Oral Roberts) and then worked hard tonight to get the ‘W’; it gives us some momentum going on the road. We need to get Katie healthy, but we’re in a good spot”, said Parkinson.
The Jaguars will now pack up for three straight away games. IUPUI will take on conference foes UMKC and South Dakota next weekend, and then travel to Western Illinois for another conference game on January 28.