South Dakota started strong and played stingy defense to defeat Houston 65-58, in the opeining round of the 2018 WNIT, Thursday (March 15) in Vermillion.

The Coyotes showed no signs of an emotional hangover after having a 20-game win streak snapped by South Dakota State in last week’s Summit League Tournament championship game, as they opened up shooting 62 percent in the first quarter against the Cougars.

USD began the game hitting three straight three-pointers and five in the first seven minutes to lead by 12 after one quarter.

That accuracy dropped considerably in the second quarter as the Coyotes went just 4-of-14 from the floor and committed five turnovers, as what had been a 15-point lead dwindled to seven (31-24) at halftime.

USD’s cold shooting extended into the beginning of the third as just two of their first 11 shots of the second half found the bottom of the net. Houston would get as close as four at one point, but their own poor shooting (3-of-11) in the third kept any potential comeback at bay.

The Coyotes closed out the third on an 8-2 run fueled by back-to-back three-pointers from Ciara Duffy.

That lead again grew to as many as 15 before Houston mounted one last charge, pulling to within six in the final 90 seconds of the game, but no closer.

The South Dakota defense kept the Cougars off balance all night, forcing 17 turnovers and limiting Houston to just 32 percent shooting. Madison McKeever had four steals for USD.

The Coyotes were very balanced offensively with six players scoring eight points or more. Jaycee Bradley finished with a team-high 12 points. Duffy added 11, including three of USD’s nine three-pointers. Allison Arens and McKeever each had ten points.

South Dakota (27-6) will host Colorado State in round two of the 32-team event. The Rams are coached by former Coyotes men’s basketball player and former USD women’s coach Ryun Williams.

Tipoff is 1:00 PM, Sunday (March 18) in Vermillion.