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Sports & Rec

SDSU set to host UCLA in WNIT semifinals

aeca2d09db_SDSU Preps For UCLA.jpg
The Argus Leader

South Dakota State University’s women’s basketball team will return to Frost Arena in Brookings this Thursday for a Women’s National Invitational Tournament semifinal showdown with the University of California – Los Angeles.

The Jackrabbit women hosted Alabama this past Sunday in the quarterfinal round, which saw SDSU edge out a 78-73 win over the Crimson Tide. With less than a minute to play in the game, and SDSU only up by two-points, senior point guard Tylee Irwin came up with a clutch steal, and then redshirted junior Lindsey Theuninck hit a shot clock expiring three-point bucket to put the game away for the Jacks.

“It was a great moment. That game was back and forth. We were fighting to the end,” explained redshirted junior and South Dakota native Myah Selland. “Frost [Arena] was great all night, but the way it lit up for [Theuninck’s] shot was great, and it’s just such a cool environment to be a part of.”

SDSU failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament this year, but because they claimed a share of the Summit League regular season title, the Jacks received an automatic bid to the WNIT. Since that point, SDSU has beaten Ohio, Minnesota, Drake, and Alabama in that tournament – all games at home.

“We’re really lucky to have these games and these chances to continue to be together as a team. With these seniors, with everybody that’s been a part of this journey this year, and so, just internally with our group, a ton of optimism, a ton of positivity a ton of appreciation to our fans who have come out and supported our team, and been a big part of these victories here at Frost Arena,” said Jackrabbit women’s head basketball coach Aaron Johnston. “It’s just really a joy to be still going this time of year, and with people you really care about, and seeing them have some success on the court.”

Nearly 4,300 fans packed into Frost Arena for SDSU’s WNIT quarterfinal game against Alabama last Sunday, which was the biggest crowd for a Jackrabbit women’s basketball game since Notre Dame came to Brookings in 2015. The SDSU athletic department announced on Wednesday that Thursday night's game has reached Sell Out status.

UCLA and SDSU faced each other earlier this season during a Thanksgiving weekend holiday tournament in Estero, Florida. While the Jackrabbits defeated UCLA 76-66 in that contest, head coach Aaron Johnston says both teams are different today than they were four months ago.

“Both teams are playing really well. Both teams defend really well, both teams rebound, both teams execute offensively really well, so it’s going to be a tough tough game for us,” Johnston stated. “But definitely looking forward to that next opportunity, definitely looking forward to someone of the caliber of UCLA coming to town, definitely looking forward to Frost Arena rocking like it was the other day. It’s going to be a fun night of basketball for sure.”

South Dakota State and UCLA will tip off at 7 pm CT on Thursday night. It will air live on Midco Sports and stream live online at ESPN3. The winner will advance to the WNIT championship game on Saturday to face either Seton Hall or Middle Tennessee.