Summit League Preview: South Dakota Women at IUPUI, Western Illinois
The task is quite simple for the South Dakota women's basketball team heading into the final week of the Summit League season - win two games and clinch a third straight regular season conference title.
But to pull it off, the Coyotes (22-5/11-3) will have to win a pair of games on the road against two of the top four teams in the league.
It all starts Wednesday (February 22) at IUPUI.
The Jaguars (20-7/10-4) have won three straight overall, eight in a row at home, and are 11-2 on their own floor this season.
They have the number one defense in the Summit, allowing the fewest points per game, and the lowest opponents three-point shooting percentage.
On offense, Danielle Lawrence is fourth in the conference in scoring and has hit 56 percent of her shots in IUPUI's last three games. She's also fourth in the Summit in steals.
Mikale Rogers is second in the conference in blocked shots and fifth in rebounding. She also averages 13 points per game on offense.
Sydney Hall is fifth in the league in three-pointers after hitting five in a game against North Dakota State last week.
Tipoff is 6:00 PM, Wednesday, in Indianapolis.
USD won first meeting 75-62, despite Lawrence and Rogers combining for 38 points for the Jaguars.
The Coyotes hit 64 percent of their shots in the first quarter and knocked down 11 three-pointers in the game. Ciara Duffy led all scorers with 22 points.
South Dakota was plus-ten on the boards and forced 17 turnovers.
Saturday (February 25), the Coyotes close out the regular season at Western Illinois.
The Leathernecks (21-6/11-3) are the hottest team in the Summit League - winners of six straight overall, 11-of-12 at home this season.
WIU has the number one offense in the Summit League, thanks to outstanding guard play from juniors Emily Clemens and Morgan Blumer, and sophomore Taylor Higginbotham.
Blumer leads the conference in scoring and is averaging 20 points per game in her last three. Clemens is second in scoring and is averaging 20 points per game in her last six. Higginbotham is sixth in scoring and leads the Summit in steals.
The Leathernacks get to the free throw line more often than any team in the conference and have made 31 three-pointers in their last three games.
Tipoff is 4:30 PM, Saturday, in Macomb.
Western Illinois was the only team to beat South Dakota in Vermillion this season, winning 86-78 in January.
Blumer and Clemens combined for 52 points in that one, as WIU jumped out to a 15-point halftime lead.
USD would get as close as three points in the final two minutes of the game, but WIU sealed the win with seven free throws down the stretch.
The Coyotes turned the ball over 22 times leading to 29 Leatherneck points.
Last week, South Dakota swept their final two home games of the regular season.
Wednesday (February 15), the Coyotes beat Oral Roberts 79-50.
The game was actually tied at the end of a quarter, as the Golden Eagles were 10-of-13 from the floor in the first ten minutes.
But, USD pulled away after that thanks to six first half three-pointers from Abigail Fogg, en route to a game-high 27 points. Bridget Arens scored 10 of her 17 points in the first half.
The Coyotes put it away with a 9-0 run to start the third quarter. Those nine points equaled ORU's entire offensive output for the period.
The South Dakota defense notched a Summit League season high 11 steals in the game.
Saturday (February 18), the Coyotes beat Omaha 91-56.
The three-pointers were flying early in Vermillion, as the two teams combined for 12 long range attempts in the first 4:30 of the game. Their overall first shooting success rates were much different though, USD hit 7-of13 from the field to start the game, UNO just 3-of-11. The Coyotes also grabbed 12 rebounds in the first 7:00.
South Dakota finished with six players in double figures, led by Ciara Duffy's 17 points.
Omaha got 24 from Michaela Dapprich, but USD's defense held Mikaela Shaw to single digits in scoring (6 points) for the first time in her last 58 games.
I talked with USD Coach Dawn Plitzuweit about last week's wins and this week's match-ups with IUPUI and Western Illinois: