BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) — An unfamiliar atmosphere might have played a role in the end of South Dakota State University's run through the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
The University of Texas at El Paso beat SDSU 66-63 in the tournament semifinals on Wednesday night in Texas to advance to Saturday's championship game against Rutgers, which downed South Florida in the other semifinal. SDSU ends its season at 26-10.
It was the first time during the tournament that the Jackrabbits had played away from home, where they had won 21 straight games. They beat Butler, Creighton, Minnesota and Indiana at home in the earlier rounds of the tournament and coach Aaron Johnston said the different atmosphere at UTEP might have played a role in the loss. The crowd was heavily on the side of UTEP, and SDSU committed 21 turnovers.
"It's part of the game, and human nature," he told the Argus Leader newspaper.
SDSU had a chance to tie at the end, but Steph Paluch's 3-point try from the top of the key bounced off the front of the rim.
"It sure looked like it (was going in)," Johnston said. "I don't think we'd rather have anybody else shooting that 3 at the end, either."
SDSU's hopes of making the more prestigious NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year were dashed when rival South Dakota beat the Jackrabbits in the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament. But no Summit League squad had ever made it to the semifinals of the 64-team WNIT.