BROOKINGS – The South Dakota State women dropped a close one to Missouri State on Monday night at Frost Arena, falling 55-52 when Tylee Irwin’s potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds fell short.
It capped off a night in which the Bears, a Sweet 16 team a year ago, used their defensive prowess to force 25 Jackrabbit turnovers that led to 27 MSU points.
The loss dropped SDSU to 3-6 on the year. That’s two more losses than the Jacks had all last year.
It’s early in the season and the Jacks have faced down a pretty challenging non-conference schedule, as they often do, and one of their wins came against a 15th-ranked UCLA squad. Still, nobody is used to seeing the Jackrabbit women struggle like this.
Then again, they’ve been through a lot.
Myah Selland, last year’s Summit League MVP, missed the first month of the season still recovering from last year’s knee injury, then injured her shoulder in her second game back. She's out again.
And while in Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase, the Jacks had a game canceled due to the sudden death of a player’s family member. This comes after a 2021 season that was essentially derailed when Selland tore her ACL just before the Summit League tournament.
When they got back from Florida the Jacks, possibly still rattled, had to travel to Northern Iowa, where they put up a fight but ultimately fell 59-50. Monday night was their first home game in three weeks and just the third so far of the regular season.
And again, they put up a fight. They defended the Bears – who are receiving votes in the Top 25 poll – well, and shot almost 50 percent from the floor. They played hard. But it wasn’t enough.
And now they’re 3-6. But they’re not expecting anyone to feel sorry for them.
“I think we’re doing alright,” said forward Kallie Theisen, who had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks against the Bears. “We just need to come together, and I think we have. We all love each other, and that’s really helped us through these tough times. We’re trying to push through and find ways to get wins.”
Paiton Burckhard, who had 11 points on Monday, was part of the Jacks team that went to the Sweet 16 in 2019 and helped SDSU run the table in Summit League regular season play last year. So she’s certainly not used to seeing her team’s loss total double the wins. But she says panic will not set in.
“It’s not something we’re happy with,” Burckhard said of her team’s record. “But it’s all the more motivation to go get those wins. It’s early in the season. We don’t want to get down about this. It should fuel the fire and drive us to want to win.
“It definitely is hard to deal with and we’ve had a lot of that (adversity) over the last couple seasons,” Burckhard added. “But there’s nothing you can do about it. A lot of those things are out of our control. So just trying to focus on the things we can control will be key for us.”
There is good news: Coach Aaron Johnston doesn’t expect Selland’s injury to be a long-term one. He said she’ll likely be out for the next few games, but being ready for conference play sounds like it could be a possibility. The Jacks are obviously a completely different team with Selland, who was the Summit League leader in scoring at 19.2 points per game last year, and freshmen Paige Meyer and Haleigh Timmer have shown promise as the team’s newest additions. Theisen appears to be taking a big step forward this year, as well.
Johnston isn’t happy that his team is 3-6, but he sounds confident they’ll turn things around sooner than later.
“I think they’re disappointed with losing,” he said when asked how he feels his team is handling the slow start. “I know I am. I think we’ve dealt with a lot, though. So I don’t think the record is a reflection of what kind of team I think we’re gonna be, but it’s a reflection of what we’ve dealt with, here – really good competition, only three home games and a lot of adversity, and the record reflects we haven’t played well enough through all that. But it doesn’t necessarily reflect what kind of team we’re going to become.”
Johnston has been the SDSU coach for 22 years. He’s seen his share of adversity, so while it may feel to fans like the Jacks are getting an unfair share of bad breaks of late, the coach doesn’t necessarily feel that way. Or if he does, he knows the only choice is to battle through it. He admits the coaching staff has to find a balance right now of how much the players can take and absorb, and they’ll be keeping a close eye on how they respond and move forward.
The important thing, according to both Johnston and his players, is that the right people are in place to come together and work through this.
“You want to be with people you can go through good times and hard times with,” said Johnston, whose team hosts Kansas State on Saturday. “I think when we bring people in here, I think they’re the kind of people that want to be together through the good times and the tough times and be willing to come out the other side and be a stronger team with stronger relationships. Record-wise we’re not where we want to be, but we’re gonna be just fine if we keep plugging away and getting better.”
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota State women fall to 3-6 with loss to Missouri State, but vow to fight through adversity