BROOKINGS, S.D. -- South Dakota State women's basketball fell to Denver 72-62 in a physical battle Thursday night at Frost Arena.
The Jackrabbits fell to 18-8 on the season with a 10-2 mark in Summit League play, while Denver improved to 11-14, 5-7 Summit League.
"Well congratulations to Denver," said head coach Aaron Johnston. "They were a better team than we were today and I mean that. I just thought that they were. They made a lot of effort plays that it takes to win. I thought we were a bit sluggish for most of the game, whether it would be defensively or offensively or rebounding or loose balls. They had a lot of energy, we didn't. There is no good reason for any of those things, we just didn't have it. They were better than we were I thought throughout most of the game. That's not frustration, I think that's reality just watching the game."
Tylee Irwin led the Jackrabbits as she tied her season high of 14 points and added six rebounds. Paiton Burckhard also pulled down six boards while adding 11 points. Tori Nelson turned in 11 points and Megan Bultsma shot 80 percent from the field for a total of eight points. Rylie Cascio Jensen dished a team-best four assists.
The Jacks shot 36.9 percent from the field and outscored Denver in the paint 38-32. Each team had 41 rebounds.
The score was tight through the first five minutes of action with the Jacks holding a 10-8 edge at the first media timeout. Sydney Stapleton broke a 14-14 tie with a transition 3-pointer, followed by a Tori Nelson layup to put the Jacks up five with two minutes remaining in the quarter. Denver grabbed its first lead of the game with 29 seconds left to take a 20-19 lead at the end of the first.
Neither team held more than a four-point lead throughout the second quarter. A pair of free throws by Irwin capped off a 5-0 run that put the Jacks up 37-36 at the break.
Irwin opened the second half with her third 3-pointer of the night. Denver responded with an 11-0 run to take a 47-40 lead with 4:30 remaining in the quarter. Megan Bultsma put an end to the Pioneer scoring run with two consecutive baskets, however Denver took a 53-47 lead headed into the final quarter.
Two layups by Tori Nelson kept it a two possession game with 6:06 remaining. A 6-0 Denver run stretched its lead to double figures for the first time with 2:26 remaining in the game and put the Jacks out of striking distance for the remainder of the contest.
"We had a lot of good looks. That's been a little bit of our story all year," Johnston said. "It'd be hard to ask for many more wide open shots that we just didn't make in this game, and that would have changed things early, but when we weren't making those, we didn't do enough other things well enough to get ourselves back in the game. Typically we get to the free throw line a lot, we didn't do that today, either. That's a big part of what we're relying on offensively and those things just didn't happen to make enough shots and get to the free throw line. Denver was able to do those things. It was a tough one for us but I think it was probably the way it should have played out watching the game."
South Dakota State is 16-2 all-time against Denver.
Denver won its first contest in Frost Arena.
Tonights loss snapped a five-game home winning streak for the Jackrabbits.
Three Jacks scored in double figures.
South Dakota State wraps up its three-game homestand by hosting Purdue Fort Wayne in the 2020 #IPinkFor game on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.
A live auction of the Jackrabbits' pink Under Armour jerseys will take place immediately following the game with proceeds benefiting the Edith Sanford Breast Initiative. Burlage Peterson Realty & Auctioneers will run the auction.
-RECAP COURTESY SDSU ATHLETICS