The South Dakota women's basketball team received its first-ever berth in the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), it was announced Monday night. The Coyotes will play host to Drake of the Missouri Valley Conference at 7 p.m. Thursday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D.
"This bid means a lot to our program and our team and it is an honor to represent our university on a national stage," South Dakota head coach Ryun Williams said. "It shows positive progression and the competitiveness of our program during this transition. Receiving an invitation was one of our top priorities as a team at the start of the season and to get it accomplished is very rewarding. We are very proud of what this group has accomplished and are very excited to compete in the WNIT."
The Coyotes, who are not eligible for the NCAA tournament until 2012-13, are making their second straight national postseason tournament appearance after qualifying for the Women's Basketball Invitational tournament in 2010-11.
South Dakota (22-7) had an outstanding 2011-12 campaign, which was its fourth and final in its transition to Division I status. The Coyotes finished the year by winning 12 out of their final 13 games and recorded wins over three teams that reached the NCAA tournament: South Dakota State, Idaho State and Creighton. South Dakota also beat WNIT qualifiers Oral Roberts and aNorthern Colorado during the regular season.
The Coyotes finished the season ranked 87th in the RPI, second-highest total of any Summit League team. South Dakota possessed one of the nation's best defensive teams, as the Coyotes ranked second in the nation in blocks per game (7.3), tied for sixth nationally in field-goal percentage defense (33.6 percent) and tied for 12th in scoring defense (52.3). South Dakota also ranks second nationally in fewest turnovers per game (12.2) and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.15).
Drake is 18-15 on the season. The Bulldogs advanced to the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament before losing to Creighton, 53-38 on March 11. Drake is 7-3 in its last 10 games, including a 54-50 win over Creighton on March 3. The Bulldogs are led by the 2011-12 MVC Player of the Year, Rachael Hackbarth, who led the conference at 19.3 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
Tickets for Thursday's game are $15 for adults (reserved, lower chairback and courtside) and $5 for youth and USD students. Fans can order tickets by calling the USD Ticket Office at (605) 677-5959.