Irwin sparks SDSU to win over NDSU in Summit League tourney

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — As North Dakota State’s Summit League women’s basketball drought continues, it is just beginning for South Dakota State freshman Tylee Irwin.
Playing in her first Summit League Tournament game Saturday, March 3, Irwin came off the bench and scored 12 points — igniting a game-deciding rally in the second quarter — to lift perennial power SDSU to an 87-62 quarterfinal win over NDSU at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
Irwin, a 6-foot freshman guard from Wahpeton, N.D., was playing in front of a lot of family and former high school teammates.
“It was fun, it was really fun,” said Irwin. “You get to see a lot of family and those players that you used to play with. But it was even more fun to get the win.”
The win puts South Dakota State into the semifinals Monday, March 5. The loss for NDSU, meanwhile, is the ninth straight Summit League Tournament setback for the Bison dating back to a semifinal loss in 2009. The only time a Bison women’s team has won a Summit League Tournament game came in 2009 with a 46-43 quarterfinal win over Western Illinois.
The Bison, who had a 28-25 lead in the second quarter, end their season with a 9-20 record — the most wins they have had since 11 in the 2014-15 season.
“I just keep thinking how close we are,” said Bison head coach Maren Walseth, who has 10 freshmen and sophomores on this year’s team. “The trajectory of this group is very high. We hope it only continues to propel us. Next year, I see us being more confident, playing a little faster and being a little stronger.”
The Bison, who lost to SDSU twice this season with an 83-63 loss in Brookings and an 85-64 loss in Fargo, came out strong on Saturday.
The Bison took an early 16-10 lead thanks to the 12 points from the Jacobson sophomores — guard Sarah and post Reilly. When freshman Michelle Gaislerova drained a 3-pointer, the Bison had a 28-25 lead early in the second quarter.
That’s when the Jackrabbits took control — outscoring the Bison 23-3 for the rest of the second quarter. During that run, Irwin scored 10 of her 12 points that included two 3-point field goals
“We knew they were going to come out strong,” Irwin said. “It’s not like we weren’t focused or anything. We just told ourselves to keep the energy up.”
Energy — or a lack of it — may have been NDSU’s problem during SDSU’s big run.
“I personally think we got a little tired and let fatigue enter in,” said Reilly Jacobson, who led the Bison with 19 points and 12 rebounds. “As a result, we were not mentally focused.”
Aaron Johnston, the 18-year South Dakota State head coach who now has a 23-2 Summit League Tournament record, was pleased with how Irwin and other reserves played against the Bison.
“We had to weather a really good start on their (NDSU) part and really good execution on their part,” said Johnston, who not only got 12 points from Irwin but 31 additional points from three other bench players. “That’s exactly what they need to do for us to do well.”