IUPUI earned their way to their to their first Summit League championship since 2008 with a win over the previously dominant South Dakota State Jackrabbits by a score of 65-61. The Jackrabbits had won 7 of the previous 8 Summit League tournaments, so the victory meant much more than advancing in the tournament to the Lady Jags. The win solidified them as contenders, and gave them the confidence they will need going forward.
It was a close contest that afternoon in Sioux Falls. Things didn’t look good from the offset for the Lady Jags, however. Out of the gates, they played flat and lackadaisical. Though South Dakota State had no rest from their game the day before while IUPUI had a day’s rest, it was the Jackrabbits that had the energy to start the game. This inspired play, coupled with a buzzer beater, gave South Dakota State a 12-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
More of the same ensued in the second. As IUPUI desperately searched for answers on the offensive end, South Dakota State was scoring with relative ease, feeding the post and reaping the benefits. The Lady Jags would find their flow and knot the game up, only to waste it away with lazy rebounding and defense. Jenna Gunn and Mikale Rogers carried IUPUI offensively in the first half, breaking the cold streaks with their mid-range and post proficiency. South Dakota State again hit a shot at the buzzer, and the first half ended with a tie at 23 points.
The Lady Jags still struggled to find motivation in the second half. South Dakota State looked hungrier for the win, likely because they had a reputation to uphold. The third quarter was an absolute slugfest. The teams traded buckets and the lead, every shot was answered on the other side of the court. As soon as South Dakota State began to build some momentum, Mikale Rogers unleashed a ferocious block on a post shot from the Jackrabbits and finished the play with a bucket on the other end. Some hot offense from IUPUI led them to a 42-40 lead going into the fourth quarter.
South Dakota State struck first in the fourth with a 3-pointer. Both teams were patient offensively. They knew things would be close until the final buzzer sounded, so every possession was vital. Despite their cautious approaches, both teams had countless empty possessions. Whether it was a turnover or a poor shot because of an expiring shot clock, both teams struggled to find offensive momentum. Jenna Gunn hit a 3-pointer to knot the game at 45. That’s when things got physical.
Both teams began to get desperate for the win. Every shot was contested, every ball handler was pressured. Naturally, play like this can bring some bumps and bruises. The referees let them play, however. Players were knocked to the ground on their shots or shoved out of bounds with no whistle following, drawing moans and jeers from the crowd.
South Dakota State had the final opportunity to win the game. Some outstanding defense by the Lady Jaguars forced the shot to miss, and the stage was set for an overtime showdown.
Danielle Lawrence got the ball rolling with an and-1 bucket. Sydney Hall, who shot proficiently in regulation, hit a 3-pointer to give the Lady Jags a 3-point lead. Holly Hoopingarner had the defensive play of the game late in overtime. As the Lady Jags clung to a 4-point lead, South Dakota State attempted to feed the post. Hoopingarner read the ball handler’s eyes and jumped the passing lane, forcing a crucial turnover. The game was over at that point as IUPUI was able to hit their free throws down the stretch and ice the game.
IUPUI was led offensively by Sydney Hall who had 18 and shot 5-7 from 3-point range. Jenna Gunn contributed 17 and Mikale Rogers poured in 16. Rogers was also a beast on the glass, collecting 18 rebounds in the contest.
The Lady Jags have a date with the Western Illinois Leathernecks in the Summit League tournament championship. IUPUI won both meetings with Western Illinois in the regular season. However, Western Illinois has not lost since Jan. 25. Both teams are hot currently, and both can score points in a hurry. It is sure to be a thrilling matchup. The game takes place March 7 at 2 p.m.