USD women clinch share of NCC title

USD women clinch share of NCC title The seventh-ranked South Dakota women's basketball team (24-3, 14-2) clinched a share of the North Central Conference title with a 72-61 win over Minnesota State, Mankato March 1 in front of 1,295 fans at Bresnan Arena in Mankato, MN.

South Dakota won its school-record 24th game and 14th league win. The Coyotes captured their first NCC title (co-champions with SDSU) since the 1984-85 season. It is their fourth title, all under the direction of head coach Chad Lavin,

whose teams won three straight titles from 1982-85.

Junior Mandy Koupal led the way for the Coyotes with 26 points and 15 rebounds, for her 17th double-double of the season. Koupal hit 11-of-16 shots and 4-of-6 from the foul line. She also had two assists and a steal.

In addition, Koupal continued to break school records. With her point total March 1, she now has 605 points in 2002-03, which broke her single season mark of 596 in 2001-02. She also broke the seasonal rebound record with 325 boards (Angie Heisler, 311, 1996-97).

Coming up big for the Coyotes was junior guard Stacy Schooley, who had a career high 17 points to go with nine assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. Junior guard Erin Bourne had 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

South Dakota hit 28-of-52 field goals for 53.8 percent, including 5-of-16 from 3-point range. USD made 11-of-16 from the foul line.

While South Dakota maintained control for most of the game, MSU-Mankato kept firing away and made several runs at the Coyotes. After the teams were deadlocked 4-4, USD took off on a 17-0 run to grab a 21-4 lead at the 11:27 mark. Then, a 3-pointer by Julia Frie gave USD a 27-9 lead. From that point, MSU-Mankato went on a 18-8 run to close the half and pull within 35-27 at halftime. USD hit 15-of-27 from the field in the first 20 minutes, including 3-of-9 from 3-point range. MSU-Mankato hit 9-of-25 field goals for 36 percent and 4-of-8 from the 3-point line.

Like the first half, USD had a quick start to open the second half. The Coyotes outscored the homestanding Mavericks, 17-7, for a 52-34 lead at the 14:05 mark. MSU drew within 58-47 on a jumper by Susan Salonek at the 8:05 mark. USD responded and took a 65-47 lead with 6:37 to play. Then, the Mavericks came back strong, pulling with 67-56 with 3:27 to play. But the Coyotes converted free throws down the stretch and held off the Mavericks.

On the night, MSU hit 23-of-50 field goals for 46 percent, including 8-of-19 from the 3-point line. They made 7-of-10 free throws. Kristin Volk had 14 points and Kelly Freeman added 13 points, including three 3-pointers.

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