When the buzzer sounded in the Sioux Falls Arena on Monday afternoon the IUPUI Jaguars found themselves on the wrong end of the score line. The South Dakota State Jackrabbits outpaced the Jags and won by a score of 79-54.
Despite playing a competitive first half, IUPUI was unable to overcome the massive advantages that SDSU possessed, and massive they were. The Jackrabbits outshot, outrebounded and outmanned the IUPUI women’s basketball team. It was a perfect storm of circumstances for the Jacks as they were the top-seed, playing in front of an overwhelmingly supportive crowd and rallying behind a fallen teammate.
“First of all I’m really proud of my basketball team,” head coach Austin Parkinson said after the game. “Having not been to the tournament in three years and coming in and getting a win yesterday, I was very excited.”
The Jags would hold the lead three times during the competition, with all three leads occurring during the first half. After Clara Mitchell opened the scoring for the afternoon it would take another seven minutes before IUPUI regained an advantage. Emily Phillips looked poised for a repeat performance of Sunday’s game as she sank a jumper to put the Jags out in front at the 13 minute mark. IUPUI’s last lead of the afternoon would come from a Kerah Nelson free-throw.
“Our defense was there in the first half, they just knocked down some big shots in the last five minutes of the half,” Nelson said.
It may have been those “big shots” that was the difference maker for the Jackrabbits this afternoon. SDSU scored 13 points in the final five minutes of the first half that allowed them to go into halftime with a comfortable 10 point lead.
“Going on that last run in the first half was big for us because they had played us so close up until that point. We needed that run,” SDSU’s Ashley Eide said.
It looked like IUPUI would catch a break when one of SDSU’s top performers who also led the team in assists, Steph Paluch, fell to the court in agony after completing a lay-up with no contact in the first half. Unfortunately for the Jags, SDSU rose above the injury and increased their level of play.
“When it happened we were all kind of emotional and then we talked at halftime and said that we needed to come out and play together for Steph,”Jackrabbit senior Jill Young said.
Coming out of the break with the lead, the Jackrabbits showed no signs of letting IUPUI back into the game. Young fired off three straight three-pointers to extend the Jackrabbit lead to 18 points.
“I had some more open looks and my teammates did a good job of finding me in transition and I was ready to shoot,” Young said of her second half start.
Young would finish the afternoon as the Jack’s top scorer with 14 points, including going 4-5 from behind the arc. She also led SDSU with eight rebounds.
As if SDSU’s hot shooting wasn’t a big enough problem for the Jaguars, IUPUI found themselves with limited substitution options. Markovic and Mitchell both picked up early fouls and found themselves constantly in foul trouble, forcing Parkinson to dig deep into his bench, using every available player.
“Coming to the game today we had three kids in boots,” Parkinson said of his bench, “Kerah Nelson had to go to the hospital last night to get x-rays on her hand to see if it was broken. If you’re going to beat South Dakota State, you’re going to have to play good and you’re going to have to be healthy, and we didn’t do either today.”
The Jaguars were lead by Nelson who scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds despite the hand injury. Phillips and Dawn Luster were also in double digit scoring for IUPUI on the afternoon.
The loss marks the end of the season for the IUPUI women’s basketball team, but the success of the Austin Parkinson era is just beginning. The Jaguars will return five starters, regain redshirted freshman Alex Thompson from injury and bring in an all-in-state trio of freshmen recruits.
“It only gets better from here,” Nelson said. “We have good players coming in next year. I’m looking forward to next year and doing some big things.”