A 70-56 victory over conference foe Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne was all the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team needed to clinch third place in the Summit League on Monday night.
In the team’s first season of Division I play, the Coyotes have managed to climb their way up the Summit League standings, winning 11 of their last 12 games on their way to a 21-6 record.
With their eyes set on a post-season tournament bid, the Coyotes are locked in on earning win No. 22 when they host non-conference opponent Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville on Thursday night in the DakotaDome.
Head coach Ryun Williams said Thursday night is the pinnacle of a satisfying season.
“They have played with toughness all season long,” Williams said. “They have faced adversity and have been able to dig deep and take third-place in the conferense.”
The Cougars (18-9) are led by junior center Raven Berry who averages a double-double on the season and was recently named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference second team.
“The (Cougars) have great inside play,” Williams said. “And they have good, athletic guard play as well. We are facing a very versatile team, there really is nothing this team does poorly.”
Berry and the Cougars will have to find a way around the Coyotes’ defense, which is currently ranked first in the Summit League in both scoring defense (52.0 points per game) and field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just over 33 percent from the field over the course of the regular season.
Thursday night will mark the first non-conference match-up the Coyotes have partaken in since Feb. 7 when the Coyotes overtook Nebraska-Omaha 58-38.
“Our attitude going into this game is no different than it has been for another other game this season,” Williams said. “We approach every game like it is out last and our most important of the season. We are still bidding for a spot in a post-season tournament so obviously a win on Thursday can only help our team’s chances.”
While USD is still in transition to Division I and is ineligible to compete in the Summit League Tournament on March 3-6, the team could still grab a spot in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament when teams are announced on March 12.
“It is disappointing to know that we do not have a chance to prove ourselves at the conference championships,” Williams said. “I feel as if we have the players that could really make a run at it. But, it is what it is and we need to focus on what we can do given our current circumstances.”