VERMILLION, S.D. | Evidently North Dakota didn't do a thorough enough job on its scouting report for Thursday's WNIT opener.
The Fighting Hawks allowed South Dakota's Allison Arens to score at will and the Coyotes moved to the second round with a 78-55 victory at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
USD (23-8), the defending WNIT champ, will play at Iowa in the second round Saturday at 3 p.m. in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes advanced with a win over Missouri State.
“I thought our kids came out and played with incredible energy from the beginning of that game,” South Dakota Coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “We faced a very good opponent, they're very well coached and a disciplined team so for our kids to come out and play as hard and as well as they did says a lot about the intensity of the game and our kids. We're proud of them for their effort in this one.”
Arens took the ball to the basket seemingly uncontested in the first half, scoring 16 of her game-high 24 points as USD sped to a 36-21 lead. The sophomore from Crofton, Nebraska, was 11-for-13 from the field and added four rebounds, four assists and seven steals.
“Playing different teams and different scouting, they guard you different every game,” Arens said. “You never know what to expect. Some nights they go in and some nights they don't.”
Arens had six points in the first three minutes of the game, helping stake USD to an 11-2 lead. North Dakota played with little energy and emotion while the Coyotes seemed fresh despite not playing in 11 days.
North Dakota struggled to get anything done either offensively or defensively. The Fighting Hawks were 3-for-12 from the field in the first quarter, then went the first three minutes of the second without scoring and by that time South Dakota had a 24-9 cushion.
“They a tremendous job taking our guards off of penetration to the middle of the floor,” North Dakota Coach Travis Brewster said. “It was evil in the aspect of you don't want to give up middle penetration but it's part of the game. We tried to make some adjustments by going to zone and trapping but we weren't there defensively and they came out hot.
“It was straight line penetration off the dribble, that's one-on-one defense. We tried a couple people on her but by then she was in rhythm and it was hard to get her stopped. It seemed like every time it came out of her hand it went in.”
South Dakota shot 55.7 percent from the field (34 of 61), consistently pounding it inside to enjoy a 48-16 advantage in the paint. Jaycee Bradley added 14 points and seven rebounds, Abigail Fogg 13 points and six boards and freshman reserve Taylor Frederick 11 points.
“I thought our kids did a really good job on the defensive end making touches tough for their post kids,” Plitzuweit said. “Offensively we tried to attack the paint in a lot of different ways and I thought our kids did a good job getting there and recognizing. They made some good decisions when they got there and we did a good job spacing the floor when we were penetrating.”
After the first quarter, things didn't get much better for North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks finished 19 of 59 for 32.2 percent. The Coyotes led 36-21 at halftime, then made 8 of 14 in the third quarter and 9 of 13 in the fourth.
“I think first and foremost getting to play again here in front of our home crowd is something we never take for granted,” Bradley said. “We love playing here and our fans. We've been getting after it in practice since the Summit League tournament and I think we fed off that intensity we've had the last couple days.”
Makailah Dyer scored 11 points and Leah Szabla 10 for North Dakota, which closed its season at 20-11.