By Chris Riley
After completing a number of second-half comebacks throughout their season, USD struggled down the stretch in Thursday night’s game at the DakotaDome as the Coyotes squandered an excellent first-half effort against McNeese State. The Cowgirls used a 27-5 run midway through the final period to take the 71-63 victory and secure a berth in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) title game.
McNeese State senior twins Ashlyn (26 points) and Caitlyn (19 points) Baggett combined for 45 points and 13 rebounds while younger sister Allison, a freshman, added eight points off the bench for the Baggetts to account for 75 percent of the Cowgirls’ offense.
“They (the Baggett twins) are very quick,” Coyotes’ senior Tempestt Wilson said. “They can shoot the ball really well and get into the lane and have a consistency in their float game thats hard to stop.”
The contest started as well as possible for Coyotes, as USD controlled the pace throughout the first 20 minutes and held an eight-point halftime lead on the strength of a 50 percent shooting effort from the field.
Signs of second-half struggles for the Coyotes were on the horizon however, as USD hit three of four three-point attempts in the first six minutes of action, but missed their final four long-range jumpers of the half. USD then went 1-for-10 from deep in the second half, and saw their shooting percentage from the field drop to 21 percent.
“I think we ran out of a gas a little bit down the stretch,” Coyotes’ coach Amy Williams said.
We had some opportunities, we just didn’t hit the shots in the second half.”
While the Coyotes were cooling off, McNeese State turned their offense around as the Cowgirls went from shooting 30 percent in the first half to 56 percent in the second.
“They are an explosive team – those girls can step back and shoot the three or get in the lane,” USD senior point guard Alexis Yackley said. “They spread you out and it’s hard to guard one on one. We just kind of broke down defensively and they hit their shots.”
The Coyotes also lost their rebounding edge in the second half, getting beat on the boards by a 21-15 margin after out-rebounding McNeese State 36-28 in the first half.
Despite their season ending just one game short of a tournament championship, Williams put her inaugural year at the helm of the Coyotes in perspective after the game.
“I’m disappointed that our season is ending, mostly because I’m going to miss coaching this team,” Williams added. “But I could not be more proud of this group and the run that we made.”
USD ends their season 19-16, tying Williams with former coaches Chad Lavin and Gary Larson for the most wins as a first-year Coyotes coach.
USD sophomore Nicole Seekamp led the Coyotes with 20 points. The Australian native, who became just the eighth player to school history to score 500 points in a season last week’s victory over Lamar, also added five rebounds and four assists.
Wilson added 15 points in her final game as a Coyote, her 23rd double-digit scoring performance in the past 25 games. Junior Polly Harrington scored 10 points while sophomore Lisa Loeffler added six points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Wilson, Yackley, Sam Mehr and Pam January wrapped up their Coyote with the final home game.
McNeese State, 21-14, will play Detroit in the WBI Championship game at Calihan Hall in Detroit on Saturday afternoon.
You can follow Chris Riley on Twitter at twitter.com/ChrisCRiley.