South Dakota State women top USC to advance in NCAA basketball tournament

Myah Selland carries Jackrabbits to overtime win in the first round in Blacksburg, Virginia.

South Dakota State's Myah Selland tries to pass around USC defender Kadi Sissoko in the first half of an NCAA tournament first round game on Friday, March 17, 2023 at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va..
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

BLACKSBURG, Va. - It was slipping away from South Dakota State.

The 9th-seeded Jackrabbits had fought off a wobbly start to mostly take control of their first round NCAA tournament game against 8th-seeded Southern Cal, leading by three at halftime and pushing that edge to seven in the third quarter, but the Trojans were fighting back. Thanks to both USC's defensive dominance and SDSU's struggles with turnovers and outside shooting, USC clawed back to take a four-point lead three minutes into the fourth. With points at a premium in this one, a two-score lead felt like a sizeable advantage.

That's when Myah Selland launched an individual performance that will define her career. Already on the short list of the all-time greatest basketball players in her home state, Selland delivered a signature effort on the biggest stage, putting the Jackrabbits on her back and carrying them to a 62-57 overtime win at Cassell Coliseum. She scored SDSU's final seven points in regulation, then their first nine in OT — 16 in a row — and the Jacks needed all of them. After she gave the Jacks a 45-42 lead and SDSU got a stop, it looked like they had it won. But a controversial review of a ball out of bounds was awarded to the Trojans — video evidence seemed pretty clear that USC had touched it last — and they tied it on Destiny Littleton's 3 with seven seconds left.

USC's Destiny Littleton looks for room while SDSU's Tori Nelson defends during an NCAA tournament first round game on Friday, March 17, 2023 at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

That could've been a killer. Instead, Selland went out and dominated overtime. She finished the game with 29 points and nine rebounds, going 10-of-18 from the floor on a night when nobody else could shoot. Seriously, her teammates were a combined 9-of-36 (25 percent); USC shot 31 percent.

When you're a sixth-year senior, a two-time conference MVP and a home state hero, this is, ideally, how you would cement a legacy. Not everyone gets that chance. Selland did, and she nailed it.


"Myah was the difference in the game, in a variety of ways," said coach Aaron Johnston. "Certainly scoring, especially late. She was able to make a lot of tough plays, put them in foul trouble, she got some rebounds and she was that calming presence.

"We went to her a lot late in the game, particularly in overtime, and she responded like you'd hope someone with her talent and ability would respond. She was the difference in the game, no doubt about it."

Selland has been making highlights like this her whole career. She's the second all-time leading scorer in school history, the only Jackrabbit to be on the team's all-time top 10 list in points, rebounds and assists, a WNIT champion and a key member of the team that went to Sweet 16 in 2019. Throughout that decorated career, Selland has been loathe to take any credit for any of her individual contributions, no matter how impressive. That did not change Friday in Virginia.

"I think AJ put me in alot of positions — we have a lot of sets we've practiced all season — and he put me in positions where I felt comfortable and saw a few shots go in," she said. "I let the game kind of come to me from there but we all made really big plays throughout the game."

SDSU coach Aaron Johnston (far right) argues with an official during the NCAA tournament Friday, March 17, 2023 at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

That is true. Kallie Theisen was outstanding off the bench, playing stellar defense and scoring six points to go with 10 rebounds. She was the only SDSU post able to hang with USC's size inside.

Paige Meyer was the catalyst early. The Jacks (29-5) fell behind 12-2 to start the game as the Trojans sent a series of shots back from where they came, and it was Meyer who woke up the offense, the 5-foot-6 guard going right at USC's huge frontcourt and scoring anyway. She finished with 16 points.

But make no mistake. This was the Myah Selland show. Buy the ticket. Take the ride. End up on top.

"It's a lot of fun when anyone on the team gets going, but especially Myah," Meyer said. "Then that energy feeds all of us."


Said Trojans coach Lindsay Gottlieb: "To me (Selland) is a pro. She scores at all three levels, but their system makes it hard. If you double someone they kick it out for 3s. She's a terrific player who got to her spots and made big shots."

It was SDSU's 22nd win in a row, their fifth in NCAA tournament play. It sets up arguably the biggest challenge they've ever faced, as they'll take on top-seeded host Virginia Tech, the 4th-ranked team in the country. That game tips off Sunday at 4 p.m.

Friday's game was, as expected, a defensive struggle. After USC went up 12-2 the Jacks scored the final seven points of the first quarter to get back in it. Both defenses were excellent and both offenses were not, leading to a 45-45 score at the end of regulation.

Rayah Marshall was a monster for the Trojans (21-10), finishing with 17 points, 13 rebounds, seven blocked shots and three steals, while Littleton had 18 points. Both teams had 20 turnovers. SDSU was 2-for-10 from 3-point range and USC was 6-of-24.

"After we settled in Paige was really good and she was hard to guard for a lot of the game," Johnston said. "Their length and athleticism took us awhile to adjust to, but our defense was exceptional. When we weren't good offensively our defense really carried us and kept us in that game."

Well, that and Selland staging a legendary performance in the fourth quarter and overtime. Things could've gone south after the end of regulation, but the Jacks responded with poise.

"We just talked about staying together," Selland said. "We were gonna make plays together and do things as a group. We had five more minutes to earn another game and we did a good job of staying together."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, began a long career in amateur baseball and started working as a sports freelancer. Zimmer was hired as a sport reporter at the Argus Leader in 2004, where he covered Sioux Falls high schools and colleges before moving to the South Dakota State University beat in 2014.
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