USD women defeat St. Cloud State Led by 18 points from freshman guard Renae Luecke, The University of South Dakota women's basketball team (12-1, 2-0) won their second straight North Central Conference game with a 71-58 decision over St. Cloud State (5-8) Saturday at the DakotaDome.
USD, which has won 28 of its last 31 games when leading at the half, won their fifth straight NCC game dating back to last season. Luecke, Sioux Falls, hit six of 11 field goals, including four of eight from the 3-point arc, and had three rebounds.
Senior forward Heather Nelson, Yankton, scored in double figures for the third consecutive game with 15 points and six rebounds. Junior forward Mandy Koupal, who played just five minutes in the first half, had 16 points and seven rebounds. Koupal, who hit seven of 12 field goals, scored in double figures for the 40th time during her career at South Dakota.
St. Cloud State, which fell to 0-2 in the NCC, was led by Kristine DeGroot and Molly Jensen, who each scored 10 points.
After St. Cloud scored the game's first points for a 2-0 lead, the Coyotes responded with a 12-5 run, capped by a jumper from Koupal.
The Huskies answered with a 6-1 run to tie the game at 13-13. Then, it was all South Dakota for the next seven minutes.
USD went on a 17-3 run to grab a 30-16 lead at the 7:37 mark after a basket by Luecke. The Coyotes built the lead to 35-18 when Luecke hit a 3-pointer at the 4:54 mark. From that point, the Huskies cut into the Coyotes' lead with an 11-3 run to close the half and pull within 38-29 at the break.
In the opening half, South Dakota hit 14 of 23 shots for 60.9 percent, including seven of 14 from 3-point range. USD hit just three of eight free throws. St. Cloud State hit 11 of 28 field goals for 39.3 percent. The Huskies made just one of nine 3-pointers and hit six of eight free throws.
South Dakota opened the second half with four straight points to grab a 42-29 lead at the 19:18 mark. Koupal hit a jumper and a 3-point shot to move the advantage to 49-32 at the 16:39 mark. Another jumper by Koupal gave USD a 53-32 lead with 15:55 to play. Like the first half, St. Cloud fought back as Sascha Hansen nailed a 3-pointer and a 2-point shot to cut the lead to 55-43 at the 12:14 mark.
Each time, the Huskies rallied the Coyotes had an answer. South Dakota senior forward Julia Frie, Byron, MN, who had 11 points on the night, hit a jumper and a free throw for a 58-43 lead at the 11:18 mark. After USD led 62-49 with 4:44 to play, Lynnea Salscheider made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 62-52 at the 4:17 mark. However, that was as close as St. Cloud would get on the night. Two free throws by Nelson gave USD a 68-54 lead with 1:33 to play.
Overall, South Dakota hit 26 of 51 field goals for 51 percent. USD was eight of 21 from 3-point range for 38.1 percent and they were 11 of 19 from the foul line for 57.9 percent. The Coyotes hit just one of seven from 3-point range in the second half.
The Huskies made 23 of 58 field goals for 39.7 percent, including just four of 21 from 3-point range. They made eight of 10 free throws. St. Cloud won the rebound battle, 35-32.
South Dakota will travel to Northern Colorado for a 2 p.m. game (MST) with the Bears at Butler Hancock Hall on the UNC campus on Jan. 16.