By Jeremy Hoeck
On a night where the home team was pushing the pace against an aggressive defense, Margaret McCloud consistently found herself in the right spot.
And the sophomore from Rapid City delivered.
Keyed by McCloud’s double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds, the University of South Dakota women surged past Utah State 81-71 in Thursday night’s foul-filled affair at the DakotaDome.
“We worked a lot on quick movements, trying to include everyone in the offense, getting the ball moving as fast as we can,” said McCloud, who was on the court for 18 minutes.
“We had those good shots and knocked them down.”
Especially after halftime.
Playing their third consecutive home against a Mountain West Conference foe, the Coyotes (4-5) practically lived at the foul line in the second half and helped themselves by shooting 50 percent. USD finished 27-of-44 at the charity stripe.
A big part of drawing fouls was fighting through Utah State’s trap — the so-called ‘buzz’ defense.
“Their defense is very aggressive, always trapping, scrap and claw, but if you attack, you can get to the foul line, and we did a great job,” Coyote head coach Amy Williams said.
The Coyotes were also effective down low, getting a combined 34 points from posts McCloud and Polly Harrington (16).
“She always gets in the right gaps,” said junior Nicole Seekamp, who finished with 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. “I feel like I can throw the ball pretty much wherever and she’ll go it.
“Tonight she got in the open spots, and with that defense, we picked them apart through it.”
From a 50-50 tie midway through the second half, the Coyotes took control — at one point going on an 11-1 run.
USD’s largest lead was 14, with about the only point of criticism for the victors were 17 missed free throws.
“That’s one of our strengths, we’re a driving team,” Seekamp said. “If we can get to the line that many times, obviously we should be making a bit more than that, but to get to the line 44 times is a great feat.”
Utah State point guard Jennifer Schlott scored 18 of her game-high 25 points to help Aggies lead 39-35 at halftime — despite trailing by seven midway through.
The native of Mesa, AZ, though, scored her points on a 10-of-30 effort from the field, which was a small victory for the Coyotes, Williams said.
“It may sound a little unusual to say we had a great defensive effort on a kid that got 27 points,” Williams said, “but I really felt like we did a better job in the second half of defending her without fouling.”
Tia Hemiller, Heidi Hoff and Bridget Arens all added six points for USD, which recorded 19 assists on 25 field goals.
Up next for the Coyotes is the trip to Rapid City for Saturday’s showdown with former assistant coach Ryan Larsen, now at South Dakota School of Mines.
The opportunity to expand the USD brand is also rather important, Seekamp said.
“I think it’s probably a good thing for the fans, to broaden the fan base in South Dakota,” she said. “Obviously, South Dakota State has always been the main team here, so it’s going to be a good thing for that.”
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at www.yankton.net.
UTAH STATE (5-2)
Makenlee Williams 6-17 2-2 16; Franny Vaaulu 6-11 4-4 16; Elise Nelson 0-3 1-2 1; Jennifer Schlott 10-30 6-7 27; Ingrida Strikas 1-5 0-0 3; Stephanie Bairstow 1-3 0-0 2; Shelby Cloninger 0-2 0-0 0; Mariah Miles 0-0 0-0 0; Jasmine Porter 0-1 2-2 2; Lynette Johnson 2-5 0-0 4; Cristal Turner 0-4 0-0 0. TOTALS 26-81 15-17 71.
SOUTH DAKOTA (4-5)
Polly Harrington 5-8 6-8 16; Lisa Loeffler 0-6 3-4 3; Tia Hemiller 2-3 1-7 6; Nicole Seekamp 3-11 13-17 20; Heidi Hoff 2-6 2-4 6; Taylor Moore 0-4 0-0 0; Bridget Arens 3-3 0-0 6; Raeshel Contreras 1-6 0-0 3; Jaylah Jackson 1-2 0-0 3; Margaret McCloud 8-9 2-4 18. TOTALS 25-58 27-44 81.
Halftime: USU 39-35. Three-Pointers: USD 4-18 (Hemiller 1-2, Jackson 1-2, Contreras 1-3, Seekamp 1-4, Harrington 0-1, Loeffler 0-1, Hoff 0-2, Moore 0-3), USU 4-19 (Williams 2-4, Strikas 1-3, Schlott 1-5, Vaaulu 0-1, Cloninger 0-1, Porter 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Turner 0-3). Total Rebounds: USU 48 (Williams 11), USD 43 (McCloud 10). Assists: USD 19 (Seekamp 9), USU 8 (Schlott 4). Turnovers: USD 15, USU 13. Personal Fouls: USU 31, USD 17. Fouled Out: Strikas, Johnson. Technical Fouls: USU coach. Attendance: 1113.