Summit League Preview: Coyote Women Host Western Illinois, South Dakota State
It's the end of not one, but two eras in University of South Dakota women's basketball this week.
First, it's the final home stand for the most successful Division I senior class in Coyotes history, as Nicole Seekamp, Tia Hemiller, Margaret McCloud, Kelly Stewart, and Heidi Hoff play their final regular season games in Vermillion.
Second, these mark the final women's regular season games in the DakotaDome, which will give way to as new on-campus arena next season.
That's the bittersweet backdrop for week eight of the Summit League women's basketball schedule.
The week begins with Western Illinois, Thursday night.
The Coyotes (20-5/11-1) put up their second-best point total of the season in a 102-77 victory in Macomb last month. USD shot 60 percent in the first half, were plus-26 on the boards, and scored 25 second chance points on 21 offensive rebounds.
The USD defense did give up ten three-pointers, but did hold the Leathernecks to under 39 percent shooting for the game. Five players scored in double figures for South Dakota.
Western Illinois (14-11/7-5) has won three-of-four and starts the week two games out of third place in the Summit League standings. They attempt and make more three-pointers and free throws than anyone in the conference, and have the fewest number of turnovers. Defensively, they are dead last in opponents field goal and three-point percentage.
Sophie Reichelt and Michelle Maher are both in the top five in Summit League scorers. Reichelt is fifth in rebounding.
The Coyotes have won ten straight coming in, and are tops in offense, shooting, offensive rebounding, assists, and steals. Seekamp leads the nation in assists and steals and is the second leading scorer in the conference. Hemiller is fifth in three-point shooting.
Tipoff is 7:00 PM in Vermillion, Thursday night.
Then a very fitting goodbye to women's basketball in the DakotaDome - a match-up with South Dakota State.
The Coyotes and Jackrabbits come into this week tied atop the Summit League standings at 11-1, a full two games ahead of every other conference team.
USD won the regular season crown last season, only to lose to SDSU in the tournament championship game.
This year's Jackrabbits (21-4/11-1) are riding a seven-game winning streak coming into this week. Their last loss, a 63-58 setback at home to the Coyotes, last month in Brookings.
Just how evenly matched are these two teams? At Frost Arena there were nine ties and 12 lead changes, and the two teams were deadlocked with less than a minute to play.
Free throw shooting loomed large in the USD win. The Coyotes made it to the line twice as often as SDSU and outscored the Jacks by three at the charity stripe.
The South Dakota defense also converted 19 South Dakota State turnovers into 23 points.
USD was led by Seekamp's 23 points and seven assists. SDSU's Clarissa Ober had eight blocked shots in the game. Ober leads the conference in that category.
The Jackrabbits give up the fewest points and the lowest shooting percentage in league play, and lead the Summit in three-point and free throw accuracy, as well as total rebounding and blocked shots.
Macy Miller is tenth in scoring, Ober and Ellie Thompson are in the top ten in rebounding.
Tipoff is 2:00 PM in Vermillion, Saturday afternoon.
Last week, the Coyotes won their lone game, a 71-48 win over Oral Roberts, the only team that beat USD in conference play this season.
Against the Golden Eagles, USD led wire-to-wire, jumping out to a ten-point lead after 8:30 and never looking back. The Coyote defense forced six first quarter turnovers, 17 in the game, leading to 18 points.
Seekamp's 17 points led all scorers, Abi Fogg had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
I talked with USD head coach Amy Williams about the Oral Roberts win and this week's games with Western Illinois and South Dakota State: