St. Cloud State falls to USD’s women 79-74

St. Cloud State falls to USD's women 79-74 The University of South Dakota women's basketball team used outstanding free throw shooting, strong defense and offensive pressure to take a 79-74 win over St. Cloud State in North Central Conference action Dec. 9 in the DakotaDome.

USD (5-3, 1-1 in the NCC) won their first conference game of the season by surging to an 11-point second half lead and then hanging on for the win over St. Cloud State (5-2, 1-1 in the NCC).

While the Coyotes still struggled from the field, shooting just 38 percent for the game, they continually drove to the basket and were the beneficiaries of numerous free throw opportunities. Therein was the difference in the game as the important statistic was free throws shot.

While St. Cloud State converted 13 of 17 (.765) free throws, the Coyotes hit 36 of 51 (.706). USD pressured the basket continually and as a result, four Huskies (Jessica Abrahams, Christine Williamson, Tina Schreiner and Jenny Peterson) all exited the game due to fouls. St. Cloud State was whistled for 33 fouls and the Coyotes 16.

Senior guard Kelly Gese, who struggled with her shooting in the 64-61 loss to Minnesota State, Mankato Friday night, had a solid game with 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. She had just two field goals, but her solid free throw shooting made a significant difference for USD. She hit 12 of 14 free throws, including five of six in the final minutes. Senior guard Kelly Koepp had 18 points (12 on free throws) and four steals. Sophomore forward Julia Frie had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The Coyotes came out ready to play as they took a 14-7 lead on a 3-point basket by Krista Orsack at the 13:13 mark. The lead grew to 15-9 at 12:18 when Alissa Koronkiewicz hit a pair of free throws. A 3-point goal by Nicole Jaycox at the 7:38 mark of the opening half gave the Coyotes a 23-17 lead.

However, the Huskies' Nicole Persby had consecutive 3-point shots to tie the game at 23-23 at 6:38 of the first half. USD took a 31-26 lead on a 3-point basket by Orsack at 2:47 of the first half. Two free throws and a layup by Abrahams pulled St. Cloud State within 33-32. USD led 35-32 at halftime.

In the first half, Gese and Frie both had 9 points, whose field goal shooting woes continued. The Coyotes hit just nine of 26 (.346) field goals, including three of eight (.375) 3-point baskets. St. Cloud State did not fare much better, hitting just 12 of 31 (.387) shots. They were three of 12 from 3-point range and five of seven (.714) from the free throw line.

The lead swung back and forth early in the second half, including eight lead changes, before the Coyotes gained control at 55-52 with 9:22 in the second half. At that point, the Coyotes moved the advantage to 62-52 when Gese knocked home a pair of free throws with 6:51 to play. USD increased their lead to 66-55 when Koepp hit a pair of free throws with 4:31 left in the game.

But the Huskies were not done. A pair of free throws by Persby drew the Huskies within 66-60 with 3:53 left in the game, and then a 3-pointer by Abrahams pulled St. Cloud State to within 3 points at 68-65 at the 3:13 mark. But the Coyotes would not fold.

When St. Cloud State received a layup from Schreiner with 1:07 to play, the Huskies trailed by only one at 70-69. But the Coyotes came right back when Koepp drove for an incredible layup and was fouled on the shot. She converted to give the Coyotes a 73-69 lead with 39 seconds left in the game. From that point on, USD converted free throws as Gese hit two free throws with eight seconds left for a 78-74 lead and Koepp added another free throw with two seconds to play for the final margin of 79-74.

Overall, the Coyotes were 19 of 50 (.380) from the field and hit five of 16 (.312) 3-point shots. Orsack added 9 points and four rebounds while Amanda Iverson had 7 points.

St. Cloud State hit 27 of 68 (.397) field goals and hit seven of 22 (.318) 3-point shots. Abrahams led the Huskies with 18 points while Persby had 16 points and six assists. Williamson had 14 points while Schreiner had 14 points and 18 rebounds. St. Cloud State won the rebound battle 45-38.

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