By Chris Riley
A trio of underclassmen joined USD’s veteran offensive threat to exact revenge on Kansas City on Saturday afternoon with a 67-45 Summit League thumping at the DakotaDome.
Senior Tempestt Wilson — making her 71st consecutive start for the Coyotes (more than double the next closest streak) — led USD with 18 points, her 13th double-digit scoring performance in the last 14 games. Freshmen Margaret McCloud (13 points) and Heidi Hoff (11 points, seven rebounds) and sophomore Lisa Loeffler (10 points) joined Wilson in posting double-digit points. The underclassmen trio went a combined 15-for-21 from the field (71 percent) and accounted for 15 of USD’s 34 rebounds despite combining for less than 30 percent of South Dakota’s total minutes.
“It is obviously a big transition from high school to college,” Hoff said. “I just feel like in the last couple of games I have been gaining some confidence back.”
Saturday’s win, which moved USD back to .500 on the year at 12-12 (7-4 in Summit League play), was the best rebounding effort of Hoff’s Coyote career and marked the second time that the former Brandon Valley standout hit double-digit points (Hoff scored 16 against Seton Hall in late November).
USD coach Amy Williams was pleased that the freshman duo of Hoff and McCloud responded in what she called “a big game atmosphere” after falling to South Dakota State and North Dakota State at home last week.
“We were coming off of two really tough losses at home and for those two to step up in this type of a game where we really needed a win — it was huge and to me shows that they are taking that step forward and growing up,” Williams said.
The Coyotes fell to the Kangaroos, 60-56, in Kansas City on January 12 but USD came out firing on all cylinders offensively while forcing Kansas City (8-16, 4-7 Summit) into 13 fist-half turnovers.
“Our team really committed to our defensive game plan for the night,” Williams added. “To hold Kansas City to 45 points was a great team defensive effort.”
Kangaroos junior Eilise O’Connor entered Saturday’s contest averaging more than 18.1 points per game, second highest in the conference, but managed just 10 points in the first 31 minutes of action (including just two points in the first half), before hitting some free throws down the stretch to finish with 17 points — the only Kangaroo to score more than eight.
“We were game planning to keep it out of (O’Connor’s) hands as much as possible,” Williams said. “We wanted to stay aggressive defensively and not play passive.”
USD held Kansas City scoreless for two stretches early in first half totaling more than 10 minutes and helping the Coyotes to a 21-5 lead just under eight minutes into the game. The Coyotes led by 16 at the half and never led by less than 15 points in the second half.
After struggling to get the inside or perimeter game going on their past two losses, the Coyotes finally got solid penetration all game long, outscoring Kansas City 32-8 in the paint — along with a 31-6 scoring edge in bench points.
USD shot 46 percent for the game while holding the Kangaroos to just 32 percent from the field.
“This really was a good win for us,” Wilson, who is now averaging 12 points per game, said. “We were looking forward to this after the NDSU game.”
With just five regular season games left, the Coyotes sit in third place in the Summit League standings, just a half-game out of second behind IUPUI — whom the Coyotes defeated on the road by twenty points on January 26 and host in Vermillion on February 21.
USD travels to Oakland (MI) on Thursday and then plays at Fort Wayne on Saturday before returning to the Dome for their final home games on February 21 and 23.
Wilson said that the Coyotes will need to remain focused for the upcoming road trip.
“If we execute our game plan and do what we’re supposed to do we should be successful and win these two next games.”
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