WNIT First Round
South Dakota 65, Houston 58
VERMILLION, S.D. (goyotes.com) -- A 12-point first quarter lead gave South Dakota the advantage in a 65-58 victory over Houston on Thursday night inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center. The Coyotes advance to the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament where they will host Colorado State at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Coyotes (27-6), winners of 21 of their last 22 games, kicked off the postseason with a bang. South Dakota made 8-of-13 field goals and 5-of-9 outside the arc in the first quarter to outscore Houston 22-10.
The Cougars (20-12) closed the lead to single digits seven times in the remaining 30 minutes. Houston closed the gap to as little as four points, 36-32, with 5:06 remaining in the third quarter after five-straight points from Serithia Hawkins.
South Dakota continued to answer Houston and used a 9-3 run to extend its lead to 15 points with 6:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. The run started with sophomore guard Madison McKeever converting a 3-point play and was capped off by a steal-and-score from freshman guard Chloe Lamb.
Houston climbed back into the game with a 15-6 run over the next four minutes. Hawkins had three of her eight offensive boards during the run. The Cougars trailed 59-53 with 1:26 to play following a 3-pointer from Angela Harris.
After a technical foul put junior guard Allison Arens at the line for two and she drove in for a layup on the next possession, the Coyotes put the game away with a 63-53 lead entering the final 45 seconds. South Dakota topped Houston with a final score of 65-58.
It was a well-rounded night of scoring for the Coyotes. Arens and sophomore guard Ciara Duffy were both shy of double-doubles. Arens tallied 10 points and nine boards with a pair of assists. Duffy scored 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out three assists.
Junior guard Jaycee Bradley led the group with 12 points, while also grabbing six rebounds and dishing out two assists. McKeever joined the group in double figures with 10 points, four steals and three assists.
Both Bradley and McKeever are climbing USD's charts in respective categories of 3-pointers made and steals. Bradley sits fourth for career 3-pointers made with 185. McKeever moved to eighth for steals in a single season tonight, tallying 75 on the year.
Houston was led by Hawkins' double-double of 17 points and 16 rebounds. Eight of her 16 boards were on the offensive glass with six coming in the second half. Harris added 15 points and six rebounds while Julia Blackshell-Fair also reached double digits with 11 points and six boards.
South Dakota senior guard Jasmine Trimboli and senior center Kate Liveringhouse added nine and eight points, respectively.
The Coyotes knocked down 43.1 percent (25-of-58) of their shots in the game, shooting 80 percent in the fourth quarter and 61.5 percent in the first. The Cougars made 33.3 percent (20-of-60) from the floor.
South Dakota outscored Houston 20-12 in points-off turnovers, although the Cougars capitalized 11-3 in second-chance points. Houston grabbed 46 rebounds to USD's 34 with 17 offensive boards.
The second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament begins this weekend. South Dakota hosts Colorado State at 1 p.m. Sunday inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center. Tickets are available now at GoYotes.com.
ABOUT SUMMIT LEAGUE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
Through 35 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League features women's basketball teams from eight member institutions: Denver, Fort Wayne, North Dakota State, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota, South Dakota State and Western Illinois with North Dakota becoming an official member for the 2018-19 season. In 2016-17, The Summit League raised its RPI for the third consecutive year, finishing with an all-time best No. 11 ranking. The Summit League has sent at least three teams to the postseason nine straight years with three postseason tournament semifinal appearances the last four years, while recording the nation's best Division I winning percentage improvement since 2009-10. Called "March's Best-Kept Secret" by USA Today, The Summit League Basketball Championships annually ranks as one of the most attended Division I conference tournaments. This season's event returns to the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., March 3-6, 2018. For more information about the league, "See The Summit" by visiting www.thesummitleague.org and following Summit League Basketball on Twitter @summithoops.