South Dakota defeats NDSU 84-61 to advance to North Central title game

South Dakota defeats NDSU 84-61 to advance to North Central title game Senior forward Julie Frie has termed it "a great ride."

And, it has been one of the best in the history of South Dakota women's basketball. On Saturday night, March 15, Frie and her teammates kept moving down the road as the No. 10 South Dakota Coyotes (27-4) captured an 84-61 win over No.11 North Dakota State (26-7) in the NCAA Division II North Central Region Semifinals at Frost Arena in Brookings.

The win, a school-record 27th, boosted USD into the NCAA Division II North Central Regional Final on Monday night in Brookings. The last time USD has gone this far was during the 1984-85 season when they advanced to the regional title game.

But back to their "great ride." The win against NDSU was driven by Frie, along with Mandy Koupal, Heather Nelson and an unwavering team approach.

"It think it (USD's success) is all about confidence. We have a team approach and it helps all facets of our game. When teams double down on Koup(al), we get a lot of good looks," said Frie, who had 16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to go with two assists and three rebounds. She had several key baskets early in the second half that broke up a close game.

"This whole year we have had to prove ourselves and it took a while for us to get recognized," added Koupal. "But we are showing people how good we can be. We play with a lot of emotion and heart. That is why it is so fun to be on this team," she said.

In the regional semifinal,

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all-American Mandy Koupal was doing her usual thing � scoring and rebounding. She had 26 points and 15 rebounds for her

20th double double of the season. But, it was the pair of seniors, Frie and Nelson that continued to balance the load for South Dakota.

After holding NDSU scoreless on the first possession, Frie made a series of plays that were crucial to South Dakota's success. She scored on a driving

lay-up and with the conversion had a 3-pointer the "old fashioned way" just 30 seconds into the second half. Her play gave USD a 10-point lead.

"That 3-point play kind of fueled us," said USD head coach Chad Lavin, who improved his playoff record to 3-4. "It got us energized and we began to execute our offense very effectively," he said.

Nelson, who had 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, hit a jumper at the 19:02 mark and USD led 41-29. Then, Frie hit consecutive 3-pointers for a 49-31 lead at the 17:44 mark. NDSU attempted to cut into the lead but could not draw any closer than 54-39 with 11:06 to play after Angie Froehlich scored inside.

After that surge, USD countered as Koupal worked inside for a score and then Nelson hit her second 3-point basket of the half, giving USD a 63-42 lead at the 9:41 mark.

Given the style of Coyote basketball, a 21-point lead is a lot to overcome. NDSU was unable to sustain any big runs as South Dakota built their advantage to 73-51 when Frie hit a pair of free throws at the 5:31 mark. After that, USD was able to work possessions and run out the clock.

Stacy Schooley, a senior from Watertown, had a big game for USD, scoring in double figures for the second consecutive game in these postseason playoffs. She had 11 points, six rebounds, and five assists in 32 minutes of action.

"This is a lot of fun. It is great playing with this team," Schooley added.

On the night, South Dakota hit 28-of-55 field goals for 50.9 percent, including 8-of-19 from 3-point range. USD made 20-of-23 from the foul line for 87 percent.

Meanwhile, NDSU was just 25-of-78 from the field for 32.1 percent, including 3-of-22 from 3-point range. The Bison, led by 18 points from Angie Froehlich, hit 8-of-16 from the foul line. NDSU's Michelle Fricke had 12 points and Leah Klabo added 10 points.

"I thought the first half, we kind of ran around a bit. But I felt good about the lead because we were playing solid defense," said Lavin. "In the second half we went to motion and that gave us some success like when we played the Bison in Vermillion. And, I know they didn't shoot that well, but part of that, I believe, was our defense."

Neither team mounted much offensively in the opening five minutes of the first half. After Heather Nelson stole a mishandled ball and scored on a lay-up, the two teams battled to a 6-6 tie at the 16:47 mark.

Freshman guard Renae Luecke answered a Michelle Fricke basket with a 3-pointer at the 14:43 mark for a 9-8 USD advantage. USD then opened up a 13-8 lead as Schooley scored on a drive at the 12:40 mark. Schooley scored 6 points in the opening seven minutes of the game.

But just as fast as USD opened a lead, NDSU countered with a 3 by Beth Bue and a rebound basket by Leah Klabo to tie the game for the third time of the half. Nelson answered for the Coyotes with a 3-pointer at the 11:08 mark and a 16-13 USD lead. Koupal hit a 3-pointer on the next possession as USD grabbed a 6-point lead � their biggest of the half. Bue answered for NDSU to cut the lead to 19-15 at the 10:30 mark.

USD, fueled by the play of Koupal, pushed the lead to 23-15 at the 8:58 mark. First, Koupal fed Schooley inside for a lay-up and then scored on a drive to the basket.

The Coyotes continued their surge, opening a 29-17 lead when Luecke scored inside the lane. It followed a Koupal steal and lay-up off an assist from Schooley. USD led 31-19 at the 4:58 mark when Koupal hit two free throws. Nelson scored inside for a 33-24 lead but Klabo answered to cut the lead to 33-26 at the 3-minute mark. As the shot clock was winding to zero, Koupal hit a 3 at the 1:28 mark to give USD a 36-26 lead.

Froehlich answered with a free throw to cut lead to 36-27. Froehlich scored on a driving lay-up to cut lead to 36-29 with :45 seconds to play in the half.

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