The Coyote women’s basketball team gave Coyote fans a warm welcome back to the Sanford Coyote Sports Center (SCSC) with a 96-43 victory over Incarnate Word (0-3) in the home opener Sunday night.
Redshirt-sophomore center Hannah Sjerven didn’t miss a shot in her first game at the SCSC, leading the Coyotes with 15 points and three steals. Junior guard Madison McKeever followed with 12 points, and senior guard Allison Arens scored 11.
14 of 15 Coyotes saw playing time, and Arens said it was nice to see freshmen such as Taylor Terronez and Allison Peplowski score the first buckets of their Coyote careers.
“I think it was an experience-breaker for us,” Arens said. “I think a lot of them were able to get in and get a feel of the game. A lot of them had their first collegiate points, which was awesome.”
Sophomore guard Claudia Kunzer made the most of her first appearance of the season, scoring 11 points, dishing three assists, and snagging nine rebounds, a career-high. She’s part of a young group coming off the bench to aid the starting five.
Head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said it’s important for the team’s youth to gain in-game experience that teaches them that pace doesn’t differ from practice to games.
“It probably isn’t an elevated pace than it is from practice, but it feels that way because there are fans in the stands cheering for you, the lights feel a little bit brighter, you’re wearing a game uniform rather than a practice uniform,” she said. “It’s really important for our kids to get out there and understand that it’s the same game, you’re just wearing something a little bit different.”
The Coyotes pulled away midway through the first quarter, going on a 26-1 run that lasted eight minutes. At half, they led Incarnate Word 56-20. If it weren’t for a buzzer-beater three-pointer from senior Gabbi Bowie, UIW would’ve went into halftime with the same amount of points as turnovers, at 17.
“I thought our ladies came out, and from the opening tip, were really aggressive,” Plitzuweit said. “Defensively, I thought we battled. I thought our young ladies did a really nice job of being intent on keeping them off the glass.”
USD forced 24 turnovers, and held UIW to a 26.1 shooting percentage, and out-rebounded them 47-23. On the offensive side, USD shot 49.3 percent on 36-73 shooting and made 13-14 free throws. Four Coyotes scored double-digit points.
“Anytime you can have 20 offensive rebounds and 22 assists, that’s hard for another team to play against,” Arens said. “It’s a great way to open up a home game.”
The Coyotes travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to play another 2-0 team in Drake, who comes off road wins against Nebraska and Western Illinois earlier this week.
“You’re playing against an opponent who can really score and score in a lot of different ways,” Plitzuweit said. “For us, it’s gonna be a matter of trying to figure out ‘how do we try to do our best to slow them down’ and then offensively, swing the basketball and attack the rim the best we can.”