Jackrabbits One Win Away From WNIT Championship Game
Wednesday will feature a number of firsts for the South Dakota State women’s basketball team.
The WNIT semifinal game at UTEP marks the first time a Jackrabbit team has played in a fifth post season game in the Division I era.
The game is also the first-ever match-up with the Miners, who play in Conference USA.
Wednesday will also be the first time SDSU has played away from home during their WNIT run, after beating Butler, Creighton, Minnesota, and Indiana to get to the Final Four.
Like the Jackrabbits, UTEP has enjoyed nothing but home cooking this post season, with wins at home over Arkansas State, St. Mary’s, Colorado, and Washington.
And while fan support in Brookings has been impressive for SDSU’s quartet of home dates at Frost Arena, fans in El Paso have been turning out in record numbers to back their team.
UTEP is leading the WNIT in attendance, averaging in 6,916 over four games, including a pair of school record crowds – 8,234 in the Sweet 16 win over Colorado, and 10,227 in the Elite 8 win over Washington. Early projections for Wednesday’s crowd put that record in jeopardy. The Miners are 21-2 at home this season.
On the court, the UTEP is led by a talented duo.
Senior forward Kayla Thornton averages a double-double (20 points/10 rebounds per game). The El Paso native was fifth in Conference USA in scoring, third in rebounding, and third in steals. She is a first team all-conference and all-defensive team selection.
Redshirt sophomore guard Jenzel Nash is the sixth player of the year in Conference USA after averaging 12 points a game off the bench for the Miners.
Other UTEP players to keep an eye on:
Junior guard Chrishauna Parker has double-doubles in three of the Miners’ four WNIT wins, while senior center Kristine Vitola has a pair of post season double-doubles and a 22-point game against Colorado in round three. Vitola was second in Conference USA in blocked shots during the regular season.
UTEP scores 77 points a game and gives up 70. They are the top rebounding team in Conference USA and average a plus-three margin on the boards.
As for defending the Miners, South Dakota State seniors Tara Heiser and Hannah Strop know the Jacks have their work cut out for them (audio courtesy Brookings Radio):
Tipoff in El Paso is 8:00pm CDT. The winner plays either South Florida or Rutgers in Saturday’s WNIT Championship game.