SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) South Dakota State is going back to the NCAA Tournament after building a big lead in the first half and cruised to its sixth Summit League title in seven years.
Macy Miller scored 19 points, Ellie Thompson had 18 and the Jackrabbits beat South Dakota 72-57 Tuesday.
South Dakota State (24-8) got off to a strong start, leading by 22 points in the first half before taking a 37-19 advantage into the break while limiting the Coyotes to 13 percent shooting from the field. The Jackrabbits were never really challenged in the second half.
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”Definitely, I thought we played really well defensively,” South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said. ”But USD missed some shots that they’re accustomed to making. When those things happen to a team, it’s hard to dig yourself out of it.”
Miller, the league’s newcomer of the year, had a season-high scoring total and tied the school’s record for a freshman.
”When she plays well, we’re better,” Johnston said. ”As a freshman, when people think of you as an elite player who has to do so much, from your home state where everybody bleeds basketball, that’s a lot of pressure for a person to go through.”
Nicole Seekamp scored 17 of her 21 points in the second half for South Dakota (25-7). Seekamp earned the tournament’s MVP honors.
Raeshel Contreras hit a 3-pointer in the game’s first minute to give the Coyotes an early three-point lead, but things went downhill from there. South Dakota went more than 11 minutes without a basket as the Jackrabbits continued to build on their lead.
”We let those shooting woes in the first half kind of dictate our intensity. We were a little rattled and out of synch,” South Dakota coach Amy Williams said. ”We’ve preached all season to not let what’s happening with the ball going in the basket dictate what our defensive energy and rebounding efforts are like. It happens all the time in this game. You need to find a way to fight through those nights. Unfortunately for us it came in a championship game.”
They improved in the second half, scoring the first four points of the period and pulling to 57-44 on Seekamp’s basket with 8:48 to go. It was their smallest deficit since trailing 22-9 about halfway through the first half.
”We never really felt comfortable all day, even though we were playing good defense,” Johnston said. ”We knew they could wipe that off the board fairly quickly. But our defensive effort was still very strong in the second half.”
The Jackrabbits led by 14 with just over 2 minutes to go, and Thompson made a 3 to seal the win.
The Coyotes finished with their third-lowest scoring total of the season.
”We’ve gotten off to slow starts. At this time of the year, you need to be a two-half team.” Williams said.
South Dakota: The Coyotes were third in the Summit League in 3-point shooting this season at 35 percent. However, they were just 1 for 16 from beyond the arc in the title game.
South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits scored 22 points off the Coyotes’ 14 turnovers, and outscored them 36-28 in the paint.
WEATHER IN SIOUX FALLS
Sioux Falls hosted the Summit League tournament for the first time in 2009. The city was dealing with a blizzard exactly six years ago to the day as temperatures dipped to minus-1 with several inches of snow on the ground. Today in Sioux Falls: 62 and sunny, the warmest day of the year.
Tuesday’s attendance of 6,526 set a Summit League women’s championship game record. Attendance for the three-day event was 24,395.
”I tell people all over the country, there’s a ton of women’s tournaments going on right now, but there is nothing else like this environment,” Johnston said. ”It’s pretty unique and pretty special.”