Preview: South Dakota Women Host Western Illinois
It's Senior Day in Vermillion, as the South Dakota women's basketball team says goodbye to four players and tries to move closer to the number two seed for next month's Summit League Tournament, when they host Western Illinois.
The Coyotes (13-14/8-6) begin the day a-game-and-a-half behind IUPUI in the standings, knowing that all they have to do is finish tied with the Jaguars to secure the number two seed, thanks to a season sweep tiebreaker.
It's also the final regular season game in the DakotaDome for Tempestt Wilson, Alexis Yackley, Pam January, and Sam Mehr, a senior class that arrived in Vermillion in 2009 when USD was entering its' second season of Division I play, its' first year in the Great West Conference. That class has helped the transition to the Summit League last season, and usher in the Amy Williams head coaching era this season.
It will be the 75th consecutive start of Wilson's career, and she's been leading the charge for the Coyotes lately, averaging 17 points a game in her last four. Junior Polly Harrington is also playing well in February, with her second straight double-double (16 points/10 rebounds) in a win over IUPUI Thursday.
USD is 5-2 at home in conference games this season and defense late has been a big reason. The Coyotes are limiting opponents to 28 percent shooting during the second half of Summit League games in Vermillion this season. South Dakota is coming off its' best defensive performance of the year, holding IUPUI to just 20 percent shooting Thursday, the worst shooting percentage by an opponent this season.
The Coyotes have also been tough on the boards this season. USD is first in the Summit League in total rebounds (40), first in rebounding margin (+6.1), and second in offensive rebounds per game (13).
Western Illinois (12-14/5-8) has won just three times in their last ten games. The Leathernecks are the number one three-point shooting team in the conference, averaging nearly eight a game (17th best in the nation), and also lead the Summit in assists and blocked shots. Where they've struggled this season is giving up three-pointers (34%), turning the ball over (17 per game), and free throw shooting (64%).
Western Illinois is led by guard Saule Kontautaite's 12 points per game, and a league leading two three-pointers per game.
The Coyotes won the first meeting, 63-60, last month in Illinois. USD got the victory thanks to a an 11-2 run in the first half to build an eight-point lead at the break. The Leathernecks defense tightened in the second half, keeping South Dakota scoreless for the final 5:43 of the game, but they could get no closer than three.
Sophomore Lisa Loeffler had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Nicole Seekamp had 13 points and Wilson added 12.
After today, USD has just one regular season game remaining, next Thursday at Omaha.
Tipoff today is 2:00pm.