Women win fifth straight over Morningside South Dakota women's basketball team (13-10, 8-8 in the NCC) continued their late-season run by winning their fifth straight game � all North Central Conference encounters � by rolling to a big first-half lead and defeating Morningside College (4-20, 1-15 in the NCC), 81-58, at Allee Gym on Feb. 17.
The Coyotes improved their conference record to 8-8 with two NCC games to play at St. Cloud State and Minnesota State-Mankato.
"I thought we really played well in the opening 10 minutes. We got out to a 21-2 run and that was the key to the game," said Head Coach Chad Lavin. "Morningside got after us in the second half. They did some real nice things offensively and we couldn't hit any shots during the second half. But I was pleased with our balance and they way we got after it tonight."
The Coyotes received 19 points from senior guard Kelly Koepp, 17 from senior guard Kelly Gese, 14 from freshman Krista Orsack and 12 points from sophomore forward Julia Frie.
South Dakota, which has led at halftime in five of the past seven games, again played a solid first half. Led by Koepp, the Coyotes opened up a 21-2 lead at 12:32 the mark of the first half. Koepp, who had 17 first-half points, scored 11 of the Coyotes' first 21 points.
During that run, Koepp hit a pair of 3-point baskets, a lay-up and a jumper. South Dakota increased their margin to 24-4 when sophomore Amanda Iverson had a lay-up and converted a free throw after being fouled.
Morningside's Katie Lokken hit a 3-pointer during a 7-4 run by the Mustangs, which closed the gap to 30-11. Back came the Coyotes as Orsack hit her third of four first-half 3-pointers to give the Coyotes a 33-13 lead.
A lay-up by Gese moved the Coyotes' lead back to 20 points (40-20). The Coyotes closed the half on a 7-2 run to grab a 50-25 halftime lead. Frie, who was fouled on a 3-point shot with four seconds to play, made three free throws to close out the scoring in the first half.
In the opening 20 minutes, South Dakota hit 19 of 35 field goals for 54.3 percent and was hot from 3-point range, connecting on seven of 13 for 53.8 percent. South Dakota was five of six from the free throw line.
Besides Koepp, the Coyotes had two other players hit double figures in the first half as Orsack had 14 points and Frie added 10. The Coyotes won the first-half rebound battle, 22-21, as junior forward Alissa Koronkiewicz had four boards.
Morningside connected on just nine of 34 first-half field goals for 26.5 percent. The Mustangs were two of eight from 3-point range and hit five of eight free throws. Sydney LeFlore had 7 points and Erica Thein had 6 to lead the Mustangs.
In the second half, the Coyotes maintained a double-digit lead even while the Mustangs had a solid second half offensively, outscoring the Coyotes, 33-31.
Two free throws by Gese gave the Coyotes a 54-29 lead. Another Gese lay-up gave the Coyotes a 58-33 lead. But the Mustangs went on an 11-3 run to pull within 61-44. However, Morningside could not cut the margin lower than 17 points in the second half.
Two consecutive baskets by Nelson gave the Coyotes a 65-46 lead. Morningside kept the pressure on as a lay-up by Danika Okerstrom cut the lead to 69-52. But each time the Mustangs made a small run, South Dakota answered with a score.
Freshman Jodi Schroeder gave the Coyotes a 75-56 lead. Iverson converted a lay-up and a foul shot and then made a 3-pointer to give the Coyotes an 81-56 lead. Katie Lokken closed the scoring with a pair of foul shots with 22 seconds to play in the game.
Overall, the Coyotes hit 32 of 68 field goals for 47.1 percent and knocked down eight of 20 3-point field goals for 40 percent and hit nine of 10 free throws for 90 percent. Also for South Dakota, Iversen had 9 points and five rebounds.
Morningside made 21 of 63 field goals for 33.3 percent and hit just two of 10 3-point field goals. They converted 14 of 21 free throws for 66.7 percent. The Mustangs had a 47-37 advantage on the boards as the NCC's leading rebounder, Trish Martin, grabbed 12 boards. Thein led Morningside with 16 points while Beth Giesen and Leflore chipped in 10 points each.