Coyotes fall to SDSU in regional final Monday

Coyotes fall to SDSU in regional final Monday USD Coyote Heather Nelson successfully overcomes the defensive efforts of Jackrabbit forward Melissa Pater (34) to sink a jump shot during Monday's regional final in Frost Arena at SDSU. Nelson concluded her Coyote career with 15 points, four rebounds and four steals. The No. 10 South Dakota women's basketball team's (27-5) outstanding 2002-03 season came to an end Monday night with an 87-63 loss to sixth-ranked South Dakota State in the North Central Regional Final before 4,237 at Frost Arena.

South Dakota lost for the third time in the North Central Regional, also dropping decisions to St. Cloud State in 1983-84 and 1984-85. However, the 27 wins was a school record. USD is now 3-5 in NCAA Division II playoff games.

The Coyotes were led in scoring by junior Mandy Koupal, who had 27 points, seven rebounds, four steals, three blocks and two assists. Koupal was named to the All-Regional Tournament team with Julia Frie and Heather Nelson and three players from SDSU (Melissa Pater, Shannon Schlagel and Brenda Davis). Koupal was 8-of-19 from the field and hit all 10 of her free throws. Senior forward Heather Nelson concluded her Coyote career with 15 points, four rebounds and four steals. Frie had 9 points, two assists and a steal.

SDSU jumped to a 45-31 lead and outscored USD 42-32 in the second half to win their second straight North Central Regional crown.

South Dakota's biggest problem was shooting. A team that had shot nearly 48 percent from the field since January hit just 22-of-60 from the field for 36.7 percent.

Even more surprising was USD's inability to shoot from 3-point range. The Coyotes, who lead Division II in 3-point shooting percentage at .417, had hit nearly 48 percent from long distance since January but against SDSU, the Coyotes made just 4-of-22 for 18.2 percent. USD was solid at the free throw line by making 15-of-18 for 83.3 percent.

Meanwhile, SDSU, while not blazing from field, had a solid game by making 48.4 percent on 31-of-64 shooting. They hit 9-of-22 3-point shots and 16-of-19 from the free throw line.

Shannon Schlagel led SDSU with 27 points and 14 rebounds while Melissa Pater, named the regional MVP, had 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Perhaps, the biggest discrepancy was in rebounding where SDSU held a 49 to 24 advantage, including 15 to 4 on the offensive boards.

In a rough and tumble first half, South Dakota continually wound up on the wrong end. SDSU outrebounded USD, 26-11, including eight offensive boards. The Jackrabbits owned the inside behind their duo of Schlagel and Pater, who was a workhorse for the Jackrabbits with 12 points and nine rebounds, including four offensive putbacks.

Koupal was big for South Dakota with 15 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Nelson had 9 points. However, the rest of the Coyotes had trouble finding rhythm.

A key for the Coyotes was their 3-point shooting, or lack of it. USD, the best 3-point shooting team in NCAA Division II, hit just 2-of-12 from 3-point range while SDSU again found gold with 4-of-10 conversions.

Overall in the opening 20 minutes, USD hit just 12-of-31 field goals for 38.7 percent, including 5-of-6 from the foul line. SDSU, utilizing their home court advantage, made 17-of-35 for 48.6 percent. They were 7-of-8 from the foul line.

SDSU opened up a 48-31 when Davis hit a 3-pointer to open the second half. Then USD gradually cut into the lead, moving within 54-47 after freshman guard Renae Luecke made a 3-pointer with 13:25 to play.

However, that was as close as USD would get. Two free throws by Stacie Cizek of SDSU moved the lead to 61-47 with 11:54 to play. After that two free throws by Nelson with 10:30 left kept USD within 63-52.

But as the case was all evening, SDSU sustained their offensive production and USD had numerous lapses. The Jackrabbits led 82-63 when Davis hit another 3-pointer. And, then Schlagel finished out the scoring by canning a pair of free throws at the 1:58 mark for an 87-63 lead.

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