For the 12th time this season, the South Dakota women’s basketball team held its opponent to under 60 points.
Coyotes coach Dawn Plitzuweit thought it might have been their best defensive performance of the season.
South Dakota (14-5, 10-2 Summit League) held Oral Roberts to 29 first-half points, and that set the tone for a 76-54 win over Oral Roberts at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center on Sunday.
The Coyotes clinched the No. 2 seed for the Summit League tournament, which begins March 3 in Sioux Falls.
The Golden Eagles were held to an 8-for-29 clip in the first half, and scored just five points before the final minute of the second quarter. Before that final minute, the Golden Eagles were 2-for-11 during the second quarter.
“I thought we came out and defended at a very, very high level over the course of the first half, and that’s fun to do,” Plitzuweit said. “They can really push it in transition and score it, they can take it to the rim and score it, and they can kick it out, so I thought our defense was really locked in. I think for the most part we had a solid weekend defensively.”
Plitzuweit saw what Oral Roberts did in Saturday’s win during the second half, and she wanted to make a couple tweaks so that the Golden Eagles wouldn’t get hot again during Sunday’s matinee.
The Golden Eagles pushed up the tempo in the half-court set, and the Coyotes wanted to make sure they set the tempo right away.
“It was important for us to limit good opportunities for them,” Plitzuweit said. “They’re a team that shoots at a very high percentage, so finding ways to slow them down without sending them to the free throw line was important.”
That defense turned into offense.
USD went on a 32-4 run that spanned from the end of the first quarter to the final minute of the second quarter.
The Coyotes had six different scorers during that run. Coyotes freshman Maddie Krull led the Coyotes in that rally with eight points while senior Hannah Sjerven scored seven points.
Sjerven led the Coyotes with 18 points and Krull had 14.
Chloe Lamb also had 12 points.
“Playing these teams back-to-back in the conference, I think it brings a different approach, and I think it’s important for all of us to understand that,” Lamb said. “We’ll have to adjust as time goes on, and I think we did that today.”
Since the Coyotes led by as many as 40 points in the fourth quarter, Plitzuweit was able to play the bench a lot more.
Krull was the lone starter who played in the fourth quarter.
Alexi Hempe led the Coyotes bench with nine points and Morgan Hansen followed with five points. Hempe also led the reserves with 19 minutes played in USD’s first home game since the first weekend of January.
Hempe didn’t really start playing for the Coyotes until the middle part of last season due to an injury sustained while she was still in high school.
Hempe needed time to recover from that knee injury, but Hempe is quickly building trust with Plitzuweit and her teammates.
“Alexi and Morgan were able to come into their own and some way shape or form and they really helped us out on the floor,” Plitzuweit said. “That’s going to be big going forward. Alexi is someone we’re going to ask a lot more out of in the future.”
The Coyotes wore their home white uniforms with pink trim and numbers on Sunday, raising awareness and funds for breast cancer.
ESPN reporter Holly Rowe was invited to the Coyotes’ annual pink dinner Wednesday night with the team via Zoom, and the team posted a picture with Rowe in the background.
Rowe also had a cardboard cutout in the stands during the home doubleheader.
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