SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The first and third quarters were similar for South Dakota in its Summit League tournament semifinal against North Dakota.
USD started the game with a 13-0 run and the Coyotes started the second half with a 10-0 run. It was the time period between those two runs, specifically in the second quarter, when things got a bit too close to comfort for USD.
UND whittle USD’s early double-digit lead down to two points in the second quarter but back-to-back baskets by Ciara Duffy and Allison Arens gave the Coyotes a bit of a cushion again.
After the 10-0 run by USD to start the third quarter, they kept control of the game this time around. The Coyotes outscored UND 26-11 in the third quarter and cruised to an 84-61 victory on Monday to set up the anticipated rematch with South Dakota State for the Summit League title at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
“I think we started the game on a good note. I thought we did a great job defensively and we got the ball moving on the offensive end. We were able to move the ball efficiently,” USD coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “Then we were able to do that again in the third quarter. Those two stretches were really the difference in the game.”
While USD scored 20 points in the second quarter, the Coyotes turned the ball over a few too many times and UND was able to convert offensively, hitting 7-of-13 shots (53.8 percent) for 23 points.
It was the only quarter where the Fighting Hawks scored 20 points.
The Coyotes came out with a renewed sense of purpose in the second half as they held UND to only three field goals and 11 points in the third quarter.
“We just had to get back to what we knew we could and that was getting through screens and getting back to the gameplan,” USD junior forward Taylor Frederick said. “In the third quarter, I think we executed what we needed to do.”
While the third quarter was key in USD pulling away, sophomore Monica Arens helped the team right the ship right before halftime. Arens had seven points in the game and all seven came in the final 2:30 of the first half to give USD a 40-33 lead going into halftime. Five of her seven points were from the free throw line.
“I thought that was a really crucial time for us. We weren’t doing as good of a job taking care of the ball as we normally do and that’s a credit to North Dakota,” Plitzuweit said. “I thought what Monica did extremely well during that stretch was settle us down and she hit some really big free throws for us. Monica is a physically and mentally tough young lady and it just speaks to her toughness to give us a lift when we really give one.”
Allison Arens and Duffy each scored 17 points. Allison Arens had eight rebounds and Duffy grabbed six. Frederick had 15 points and Madison McKeever had 10 points.
For UND, Melissa Dailey had 17 points and Lexi Klabo and Jill Morton each had 12 points.
USD won the previous two games against UND by a combined 63 points but both games were physical, as evident by the 62 fouls in the first contest and 58 fouls in the second.
Monday’s contest was no different with 53 combined fouls in the game.
USD got in some foul trouble in the first half but took advantage of the physical style in the second half, making all 16 of their free throws.
“We knew this was going to be a physical game. They have a lot of good athletes and a lot of physical players so we did mentally physically prepare for that and I think we did a pretty good job,” Duffy said. We did get in some foul trouble, specifically me, but I think the third quarter we did a good job of guarding without fouling at lot better.”
The game was a bit of prep for Tuesday’s game against SDSU for the Summit title.
“SDSU has a lot of skilled athletes, a lot of good players, really physical play, especially down low,” Duffy said. “So this was a good prep game for that going into the championship. We have to stick with what we have done all year. There are going to ups and downs, but just come back to who we’ve been and doing the little things right.”
Plitzuweit said the atmosphere for Tuesday’s title game will be second to none.
“The first thing we have to do, we have to get recovered. This was a very physical battle so we have to get our bodies ready to prepare to play again,” Plitzuweit said. “Then, we know each other pretty well and just go back, clean up some things on both ends of the court to the best of our ability.
“Let players play at this point in time and let them play hard and let them play free.”