In a battle of the last six Summit League champions, South Dakota State Jackrabbits (26-6) used a monstrous first half to beat the South Dakota Coyotes (25-7) 72-57 to win the Summit League Championship.
Freshman, Macy Miller was just phenomenal when the Jackrabbits needed her. She had 19 points on on 5-of-9 shooting. It's her most points for South Dakota State since scoring a career high against Denver Pioneers on Feb. 11.
For the Jackrabbits, it was revenge from a season before. The Coyotes beat South Dakota State 72-58 in the semifinals of the 2014 Summit League Championships. The teams split the regular season series, each winning on their home floors.
The Jackrabbits came out on fire A 19-2 to start the game for South Dakota State through an array of balance scoring. From Rachel Walters to Mariah Clarin, South Dakota State hit the Coyotes early and often.
After gaining their largest lead of the first half at 33-13 off a Macy Miller layup with 2:50 left in the first half, the Coyotes fought back, cutting the South Dakota State lead down to 37-19 at halftime.
South Dakota responded out of halftime with back-to-back buckets, cutting the Jackrabbit lead to 37-23 with 18:57 left in the game. Mariah Clarin was sent to the bench with her third foul, giving the Coyotes some help defensively.
The Coyotes found a bit of life midway through the second half, using a 9-2 run, bringing South Dakota within 57-44 with 8:48 to go.
However, it's the stifling defense of the Jackrabbits that snuffed out any real images of a Coyote comeback. South Dakota State held South Dakota to just 31.3 percent shooting for the game. The first half deficit that the Jackrabbits put on South Dakota was just too much to overcome.
The defense that South Dakota played against Raeshel Contreras can not be understated. The fifth leading scorer in the Summit League was held to just three points on 1-of-10 shooting. Contreras was 0-of-6 in the first half. Tia Hemiller was also just 1-of-10. The two guards combined to score just seven points on 2-of-20 from the floor.
South Dakota State will make their sixth NCAA appearance, first since 2013. It's big redemption as to the battles with South Dakota in the regular season. ESPN'S Charlie Creme has South Dakota State a potential 15-seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.