4:00 PM ET, March 10, 2009
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- In South Dakota State's first season as a full-fledged member of Division I, the Jackrabbits are headed to the NCAA tournament.Jennifer Warkenthien had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead South Dakota State (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) to a 79-69 victory against Oakland, Mich., in the Summit League championship game Tuesday.SDSU (31-2) won a Division II national championship in 2003, but the transition to D-I has made the Jackrbabbits ineligible for postseason play in recent seasons.As the top seed and regular-season Summit champion, the Jackrabbits were primed for their first trip to the NCAA's D-I postseason.But they started cold against Oakland (26-6) and trailed by as many as 14 in the first half."We just knew that we weren't ready to give up and this wasn't something we wanted to go back in the locker room feeling the way we felt at halftime," said Warkenthien, the conference player of the year during the regular season."At halftime I told the team they should be more angry than disappointed at themselves and not at anybody other than us," said SDSU coach Aaron Johnston, who team shot 32 percent and committed 11 turnovers in the first half.Oakland led 39-29 after 30 minutes."We just didn't really compete well," he said. "It could have been because of nerves, it could have been because we didn't start well or a lot of reasons. Oakland played well. In the second half our effort level was much better."It was the first time since 1998 the No. 1 seed won the Summit League tournament. Oakland was the only Summit League team to defeat SDSU during the season. The Jackrabbits' other loss was to Maryland.SDSU, playing before a crowd of 5,580 in an arena just 50 minutes from campus, cut its halftime deficit to three points barely four minutes into the second half and brought the partisan crowd back into the game."They came out strong [in the second half] and we didn't match their intensity off the bat," said Oakland's Jessica Pike, who scored 22 points -- 20 in the game's first 17 minutes.SDSU shot 56 percent in the second half and was 7-for-14 on 3s.Oakland coach Beckie Francis said her team lost the focus it had in the first 20 minutes. The loss ended a 10-game win streak."I saw it in their eyes, they let up and you can't let up against South Dakota State," she said. "I could feel they weren't ready for the punch and so they got punched right there in the second half and South Dakota State started believing they are as good as they are and that was the ballgame."A 3-pointer by Jill Young gave SDSU its first lead at 46-45 with 13:45 left. The margin was only two points when Warkenthien scored to start a run of 11 straight points that put the Jackrabbits up 71-58 with 3:30 to play. Oakland never got closer than eight points after that.Kristen Rotert added 15 points -- a dozen in the second half for SDSU.
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||26-62 (.419)||21-47 (.447)|
|3P Made-Attempted||7-9 (.778)||10-24 (.417)|
|FT Made-Attempted||10-13 (.769)||27-32 (.844)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||24 (0/0)||18 (0/0)|