South Dakota Coyotes Host Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in WNIT Championship
Three days after one of their best performances in school history, South Dakota plays the biggest game in its' Division I days, when the Coyotes host Florida Gulf Coast in the 2016 WNIT championship game, Saturday afternoon.
USD is riding high after a 34-point blowout of Oregon in the semifinals, Wednesday night. In that game, the Coyotes started an unbelievable 12-of-14 from behind the three-point arc, finishing the night with 15 threes. Overall, South Dakota shot 54 percent for the game.
Throughout the post season, the Coyotes have been sparked by defense, rebounding, and three-point shooting. The South Dakota defense forced 31 turnovers in the first two rounds and allowed just eight of three-pointers in the last three. In those last three wins, USD is plus-55 on the glass. In four of the five games, South Dakota has notched double digit totals from behind the three-point arc (10 vs. Creighton, 13 vs. Minnesota, 12 vs. Western Kentucky, 15 vs. Oregon).
The Coyotes (31-6, 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 quartet of wins.
South Dakota has won 21-of-22 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.
Florida Gulf Coast (33-5/RPI - 71) swept the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season (14-0) before being upset by Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship game. The Eagles earned an automatic bid into the WNIT, posting double-digit home wins over Bethune-Cookman (78-51), Wake Forest (67-48), Tulane (73-61), and Hofstra (61-46), before rallying from a point down at home with 2:47 left to beat Michigan in the semifinals, 71-62.
FGCU is in the top ten nationally in defense (49 points per game allowed), assist-to-turnover ratio, fewest turnovers, and three-point shooting.
DyTiesha Dunson is the league's Defensive Player of the Year and is in the top ten nationally with a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Taylor Gradinjn is in the top 20 in three-pointers made. Karl Smesko has won the Coach of the Year award in the A-Sun six years straight.
This game will feature two very talented senior guards. USD's 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. FGCU's Whitney Knight is the two-time Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year. She is in the top 20 nationally in blocked shots (89).
The 31 wins for the Coyotes this season are 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.
USD is 16-1 at home this season. The only blemish was a December 12 loss to Washington.
FGCU was unbeaten on the road this season (12-0). They've won 22 straight away games since a loss at Auburn, November 20, 2014.
Tipoff in 2:00 PM, Saturday, in Vermillion. The game will be broadcast nationwide on CBS Sports Network.