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University of South Dakota Coyotes Host Western Kentucky in WNIT Quarterfinals

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The most successful senior class in the history of women’s basketball at the University of South Dakota continues to have a hard time in one area this season – saying goodbye to their home floor.

More than five weeks after the DakotaDome was supposed to host a women’s basketball game for the final time after more than 35 years, the Coyotes are still at it – and still making history.

In their sixth straight year of post-season play, USD has already gone deeper than any Division I squad in school history – the quarterfinals of the WNIT – when they host Western Kentucky, Sunday night. The Lady Toppers will be playing their 29th WNIT game all-time. They have an 16-12 overall record in the tournament in 11 appearances.

The Coyotes (29-6, RPI – 62), the regular season champions of the Summit League, have made the most of their second chance this season, following a five-point loss to South Dakota State in the conference tournament final. USD has parlayed an automatic WNIT bid into a trio of wins – at home against Creighton in round one, at Minnesota in round two, and back home topping Northern Iowa, 51-50, in round three.

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South Dakota has won 19-of-20, and has the 12th best scoring offense in the nation (78 points per game). The Coyotes are also in the top 20 nationally in total rebounds, rebound margin, three-pointers made, three-point percentage, assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, and steals.

Western Kentucky (27-6, RPI – 38) finished tied for second in the Conference USA standings, behind UTEP. WKU lost to Marshal in the conference tournament quarterfinals and earned an at-large berth in the WNIT. The Lady Toppers are in the top 25 in the nation in fewest turnovers (13 per game) and most offensive rebounds (15 per game).

In the WNIT, WKU scored 33 points in the fourth quarter to beat Dayton at home, rallied from 12 down to top UT Martin at home, before going to Saint Louis and beating the Billikens, in overtime, on a Sidnee Bopp three-pointer – her only points of the game. Western Kentucky is the only team in this year’s quarterfinals to win a round three game on the road.

This game will feature two very talented guards. USD senior Nicole Seekamp, the Summit League Player of the Year, is the only player in the nation to average 16 points, six assists, and 2.6 steals per game. Lady Topper junior Kendall Noble, the Conference USA Player of the Year, led the nation with a pair of triple-doubles this season. She came within a rebound and an assist (21 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) from having another in WKU’s third round win at Saint Louis. She is in the top 25 in the nation in minutes played, free throws attempted and made, and steals. Noble has scored 81 points (27 per game) in the Lady Toppers three WNIT wins.

This game will feature a match-up of two coaches in their fourth season at the helm. Amy Williams is the Summit League Coach of the Year, after guiding the Coyotes to back-to-back regular season titles. Western Kentucky’s Michelle Clark-Heard has 103 wins to her credit in Bowling Green, the most ever for a Lady Topper coach in their first four years.

A Coyote win would be their 30th of the season – the most in the Division I era. Only one other time in school history has a USD women’s team won more than 30 games. The 2007-08 team went 33-2 and was the Division II Runner-Up.

Tipoff in 7:00 PM, Sunday, in Vermillion. The winner advances to the semifinals against either Oregon or UTEP.

I talked with South Dakota head coach Amy Williams about the Northern Iowa win and the match-up with Western Kentucky:

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