Summit League Preview: South Dakota Women Host Western Illinois, North Dakota State
One game into the second half of the Summit League basketball schedule, there's just one remaining team on the women's or men's side to taste defeat in conference play - the South Dakota Coyotes.
USD (17-5/8-0 Summit League) ran the table in the first half of the league slate and began the second half with their 11th straight victory overall.
This week, the Coyotes are home for two, starting Thursday (February 1) with the defending conference regular season and tournament champions, Western Illinois.
The Leathernecks (16-6/6-2 Summit League) have the most potent offense in the conference, scoring 90 or more in each of their last four wins - shooting 55 percent, scoring 215 points, and hitting 37 three-pointers in wins over Denver and North Dakota State last week.
The Summit League's Pre-Season Player of the Week has been on a tear. Senior guard Emily Clemens has played more minutes, scored more points, dished off more assists, and made more steals than any other player in the conference. In last week's win over Denver she scored 39 points.
Junior guard Taylor Higginbotham had 26 in the Denver game. She's fourth in scoring in the Summit, averaging 16 points per game.
Senior guard Morgan Blumer scored 47 points in last week's two games. Her 15 points per game are seventh best in the conference.
Defensively, senior forward Olivia Braun leads the league in blocked shots and defensive rebounds.
South Dakota won the first meeting with WIU, 82-58, thanks in large part to 15 three-pointers, tying a season-high.
In Macomb, the Coyotes used a 5-0 run to start the game and a 15-0 to start the second half, and didn't allow the Leathernecks a single second chance point.
Tipoff is 7:00 PM, Thursday in Vermillion.
Saturday (February 3), North Dakota State comes to the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
The Bison (8-13/1-6 Summit League) have dropped two straight coming into play this week, turning the ball over 36 times in losses to Omaha and Western Illinois.
NDSU's leading scorer each of the past two seasons, Taylor Thunstedt, has seen her production and minutes decrease this season as the Bison look for more balance on offense. Sophomores Reilly Jacobson (13 points per game) and Sarah Jacobson (12 points per game) are leading an offense that is sixth in the Summit in scoring, fourth in shooting accuracy.
The Coyotes won the first meeting, 82-67, grabbing a 13-point first quarter lead on the strength of 67 percent shooting in the first ten minutes.
Jaycee Bradley led the scoring with 21 points, hitting five of South Dakota's 13 three-pointers in the game.
The USD defense scored 32 points off of 22 NDSU turnovers.
Tipoff is 1:00 PM, Saturday in Vermillion.
Last Thursday (January 25), the Coyotes took over sole possession of first place in the Summit League with a 67-61 road win over South Dakota State, the only other undefeated team in the conference at that point.
The two were even after a quarter, but USD rattled off 12 straight points to start the second quarter. Senior Kate Liveringhouse scored 18 of her 20 points in the first half, as the Coyotes took a five-point lead into intermission.
South Dakota extended that advantage to 13 early in the third, before SDSU mounted a comeback.
The Jackrabbits got six points from Macy Miller during a three minute stretch of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to one, but the Coyote defense limited SDSU to just two field goals on their last seven attempts of the game, winning by six.
Saturday (January 27), USD looked to avoid an emotion letdown after the SDSU win and got off to a strong start in Denver, forcing 14 first half turnovers, en route to a 79-51 win.
The Coyote defense held the Pioneers to just 27 percent shooting, one game after Denver hit 18 three-pointers at Western Illinois.
I talked with USD head coach Dawn Plitzuweit about last week's sweep and this week's match-ups with Western Illinois and North Dakota State: