It's a transition from the first half of the 2016 Summit League women's basketball schedule to the second half this week, and the University of South Dakota is trying to stay right where they've been all along - at the top - as they look to defend their regular season crown.

USD (15-5/6-1) will try to extend a five-game winning streak with a pair of games this week.

First up it's on the road to face Western Illinois. The Leathernecks (11-9/4-3) are adjusting to life without all-conference player Ashley Luke, who graduated after last season. Without her, they've become a much more balanced team with four players (Sophie Reichelt, Michelle Maher, Taylor Higginbotham, Emily Clemens) scoring in double figures.

WIU likes to push the action, shooting early and often. The Leathernecks are the only team in the Summit League to put it up 60 times or more in every conference game so far. Their 183 three-point attempts also lead the league.

Rebounding and defense have been the problem areas for Western. They are are dead last in rebound margin (-8 per game) and next-to-last in points allowed.

Tipoff is 7:00 PM in Macomb, Wednesday night.

Saturday, the Coyotes return home to open the second half of the conference schedule with a North Dakota State that has won just once in the first half, but took USD into double overtime in Fargo earlier this month. In that game, Taylor Thunstedt scored 33 against the Coyotes, Marena Whittle added 21 before fouling out. Thunstedt and Whittle are among the top four scorers in the conference.

Whittle is the reigning Summit League Player of the Week after hitting for 33 in a game against Fort Wayne last week, and going for a double-double (16 points/14 rebounds) against Western Illinois.

Despite two of the top offensive weapons in the conference, the Bison have lost seven-of-eight in part because of the league's worst defense, which allows 77 points a game.

Tipoff is 4:30 PM in Vermillion, Saturday afternoon.

South Dakota swept a pair of home games last week beating Fort Wayne 92-60 and topping IUPUI 65-59.

Against the Mastodons, the Coyotes dished out 25 assists and turned it over just eight times while forcing 20 turnovers. Twelve different players scored for USD. Nicole Seekamp's 19 points led the way.

In the win over the Jaguars, South Dakota's #1 offense was slightly better than IUPUI's #1 defense as Seekamp brought the Coyotes back from an eight-point third quarter deficit with 14 second half points. She finished with 24 points and five steals. USD clinched the win going 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half.

I talked with USD head coach Amy Williams about those wins and this week'se games at Western Illinois and at home with North Dakota State:

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