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#21 Zags WBB Host South Dakota State

hopefully the Jackrabbits don’t show up like their football team did on Friday night

After an eight day break, the Women get back into the action tonight as they host the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the McCarthey Center at 5pm EST for a matchup that will be televised on SWX and streamed on ESPN+. Let’s take a look at what the Jacks will bring into this game.

Heading into the season, the Jackrabbits were selected to finish first in the Summit League after winning their third straight league championship the previous year with an undefeated record, which was their second undefeated conference performance in three years. At this stage, the oldest university in South Dakota located in Brookings sits at 6-3 with loses coming in a close game on the road against Wisconsin (66-64), a blowout on the road against top-ranked South Carolina (78-38), and fellow foe Washington State at home (69-64). While their wins haven’t come against notable schools, they’ve won by an average margin of 21 points with a the smallest being 12 and currently are ranked #77 in the NET rankings. A Gonzaga win tonight would be a nice addition to the resume while also marking their first victory against SDSU as they’ve lost the other three matchups, most recently in the 20-21 season in overtime on the road.

While the Bulldogs run a high flying offense, expect this game to be a lower key affair as the Jacks have some good looking defensive statistics. They are currently holding their opposition to 56.2 points per game (55th nationally) on just 34% shooting (19th overall) that is highlighted by an astounding 5.4 blocks per game (18th in the nation). The offense looks fairly old-school on paper with just 65.2 points per game that will primarily come from two pointers (46.7% efficiency) as they only shoot 15.6 threes per game (301st nationally). Similar to the Zags, SDSU looks to run a short bench rotation with just three non-starters receiving more than 10 minutes, which is really interesting given that one of their main starters, Paige Meyer, didn’t play for three games in mid-November.

Paige, the 5’6” junior guard, was selected to the First Team All-Summit Preseason Team after averaging 10.5 points on 55.7% shooting (48.8% from deep) in her sophomore campaign. This season, she’s taken a massive step forward as she’s posting 16.7 ppg on 47.9% efficiency (41.2% 3FG) while also chipping in 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals. In the loss against Washington State, she scored a team-high 23 points (7-15 FG but 0-3 3FG) and was selected to the Summit League Player of the Week for her performance. When looking at her numbers, Gonzaga would be wise to pressure her when possible as she averages 3 turnovers per game and coughed up 5 against the Cougs, but will need to be careful as she averages nearly 5 trips to the free throw line per game.

Another name to watch will be Tori Nelson, the 6’1” graduate senior forward, who was honored with a Second Team All-Summit Preseason Team selection heading into this season. Offensively, she’s just about matching her career averages with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and almost 3 assists, but her real contribution will be on the defensive end as she’s contributing nearly 2 blocks per game while posting a defensive rating of 82.6 and defensive box plus/minus of 3.9. These numbers may not mean a lot on the surface, but to help put them into context, no player from Gonzaga is rated below 90 nor above 2.5 for those respective statistics.

Brooklyn Meyer, the 6’2” sophomore forward, does not appear to be Paige’s sister from her bio on the SDSU website, but has been performing with the edge one might expect of a little sister as she’s averaging a team-leading 17 points (53.9% FG), 9.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. Expect her to operate exclusively in the paint as she hasn’t attempted a three pointer all year and shoots just 61.7% from the free throw line despite averaging just over five attempts per game. Given that she’s averaging the highest shots per game on the team and is second in usage rate percentage, expect the ball to be in her hands often and a tough matchup for the bigs.

Madison Mathiowetz, the 5’10” guard, should also be a name to watch for after posting career-high scoring in her last two games against Northern Iowa (16) and Dordt (21). For a team that doesn’t shoot often from deep, the Zags will need to guard her on the perimeter as nearly half of her shooting attempts come from beyond the arc (4.3 per game), although she’s averaging just 30.8% on the season thus far. Another deep threat the Zags will need to watch will be 6’1” junior forward Madysen Vlastuin as she’s hoisting 4 per game and converting an impressive 47.2% of those attempts.

Given that this game comes just three days before the team will travel to Phoenix for the Jerry Colangelo Classic against Arizona, let’s hope for a consistent performance across all four quarters that could allow for Fortier to give the bench an extended run and keep the starters’ legs fresh heading into the final Pac-12 matchup ever as it currently stands.

Before the game starts, I think it’s important to give some attention to Yvonne’s most recent national praise:

Let’s keep those honors rolling Yvonne!

Hit the thread below to comment on the game as it proceeds and give your opinions.