College Women's Basketball

South Dakota State's final game at Frost Arena leads to undefeated conference record

Strong second half leads Jackrabbits to win over North Dakota State

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BROOKINGS — The South Dakota State women sent Frost Arena off in style as the Jackrabbits beat North Dakota State 89-74 on Saturday and became the first team in Summit League history to go undefeated in conference play back-to-back seasons.

“It was a great game,” said SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston. “It’s easy for me to say that, coming out on the winning side, but it was an entertaining, fun game. … We talked about three things going into this. We talked about celebrating Tori [Nelson] and what she’s meant as a senior, and trying to celebrate Frost Arena and what that’s meant to a lot of people, and then trying to celebrate what our team has done and achieved for a very long time. I thought we did a great job and it showed in how hard we played and how connected we were.”

SDSU (24-5, 16-0) made its last nine shots of the game and outscored NDSU 22-16 in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter was dominated by Brooklyn Meyer, Paige Meyer and Madison Mathiowetz, who combined to score 20 of the Jacks’ 22 points in the final frame.

Those three combined to score 74 points in the game. Brooklyn Meyer had 29 points and 11 rebounds. Paige Meyer had 24 points and Mathiowetz had 21. Johnston said it was special to see his top three scorers all score 20-plus in the final game at home this season.

“That was really impressive,” Johnston said. “Those three have certainly been All-Conference caliber players and have for all year really. Brooklyn, she’s just elite down [low]. I still think what she does is amazing. Her ability to score, draw fouls and she’s such a good passer. … Paige on the other hand is someone who we can play through on the perimeter. 

“We can run a lot of things for those two and they always seem to make the right decision. For them to make these kinds of plays in this environment where it is a heavy situation, I think that gives them a lot of confidence moving forward as we head into the conference tournament.”

The Jacks led 9-3 a little over two and a half minutes into the game. The Bison then used a 6-0 run to make it 15-15 with 3:18 left in the first quarter and SDSU took a 22-21 lead into the second.

SDSU went on an 8-0 run in the second quarter to make it 37-28. The Bison responded with a 12-4 run and took a 41-39 lead with 1:22 left in the first half. However, it was SDSU that had the lead at halftime as the Jacks took a 46-44 lead into the locker room. 

SDSU and NDSU were tied 49-49 a minute into the third and the Jacks went on a 7-0 run. The Bison cut the lead to 60-58 four minutes left in the quarter but the Jacks closed the quarter with another 7-0 run and led 67-58 heading into the fourth.

The Bison wouldn’t go away though. A four-point play from Elle Evans cut the Jackrabbit lead to three and NDSU trailed 73-70 with 5:54 left in the game. But the Jacks outscored the Bison 16-4 the rest of the way and all of those points came from the two Meyer’s and Mathiowetz.

SDSU shot 62.1% from the field and was 7-of-17 from three. NDSU shot 44.8% from the field and was 12-of-24 from three. The Bison were led by Heaven Hamling who had 23 points. Elle Evans had 19 points. 

The Jacks 38 rebounds and the Bison had 26. SDSU had 11 turnovers and the Bison had 13. The Jacks were 10-of-25 at the free throw line and the Bison were 10-of-13.

It was senior day for SDSU and the lone senior honored was Tori Nelson. She scored four points in her final game in Brookings, but as Johnston noted, Nelson’s impact isn’t always made in the scoring column. Nelson is a winner and her record backs that up as she is now 73-4 against Summit League opponents.

“I think Tori is one of the best winners. … Three of the years she’s been here she’s been undefeated [in the Summit League]. The other time she lost once and then I don’t know what it was before that. But she hasn’t lost much and that’s unbelievable. You talk about Tori and all of the things that she does, she’s just a winner. She helps teams win and helps people around her raise their level and play better,” Johnston said.

Nelson said it was awesome to go out with a win at home and this season has been special because she’s been the only senior on the court.

“I really can’t imagine a better outcome than that. … I was happy to do it with a win. … It’s been a great [senior season]. I’ve loved being able to move into more of a leadership role for us this year and being more vocal. When I was a freshman I never thought I’d be in this position. It’s been a long time coming, but at the same time it’s gone by super fast. I’m so glad I got to spend my senior season with this group of girls and I’m excited with what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve overcome,” Nelson said.

What Nelson and her teammates have overcome is four season-ending injuries to SDSU players this year. She added that her team never lost belief in each other despite the injuries throughout the season.

“I’m super proud of our team. I think there were definitely some people who probably doubted us after we had so many injuries early on. But I think we always knew what we were capable of and that’s what we kept in mind the whole time,” Nelson said.

The Jackrabbit women finished with a record of 572-133 at Frost Arena. 3,768 people attended the final game at Frost, which will be renovated and turned into First Bank and Trust Arena by the beginning of next season. Johnston said the atmosphere in Brookings is unlike any other atmosphere in the country.

“There’s no place like Frost Arena,” Johnston said. “There’s no crowd out there [in the conference] that even comes close and understands how to impact a game. When we go on a run, they are helping us go on a run. Sometimes they respond to us and sometimes we respond to them. 

“There’s really just no other place like it, certainly in our league, but even nationally that can compete with the atmosphere we have. Today, I’m sure there were people that watched the game in the stands that have been to games all 50 years that we have been here. So, if today is another good memory for them, that’s a good thing.”

The Jacks will be the No. 1 seed in the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, which will begin on Friday night. SDSU won’t know who it will face in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 3 p.m. as the Jacks will play the winner of No. 8 Kansas City and No. 9 Omaha, who play on Friday at 4:30 p.m.