The USD women’s basketball team made program history by reaching the top 25 in the AP Top 25 poll and USA Today/Coaches Poll on Feb. 11 and 12 of 2019 for the first time in Division I history. Now, nearly one year later, the team is still reaching new heights.
Tuesday afternoon the latest Coaches poll was released and had USD ranked 18th, the highest mark in school history. The Coyotes (17-2 overall, 6-0 in conference) are coming off a historic 35 point victory over the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State Sunday afternoon.
SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said this year’s Coyotes are better than last year’s partly because of the experience all of the players have under their belts.
The Coyotes are ranked 24 in the AP poll with a high mark of 22. The Coyotes entered the Coaches poll on Dec. 3 and haven’t left the rankings since. USD joined the Top 25 of the AP poll on Dec. 16 at number 25 but fell out after a loss at then No. 5 South Carolina. The Gamecocks are now ranked the number one team in the country. USD reentered the poll on Jan. 6 at No. 22.
The Coyotes scheduled a tough non-conference to try and boost the team’s image in the national eye. The lone losses for the Coyotes are against Missouri State, who just fell out of the AP Top 25 after a loss last week, and South Carolina, who ranks No. 1 in the AP and No. 2 in the Coaches.
The only loss from last years’ NCAA Tournament team was Allison Arens. There have been multiple players stepping up in her absence.
Allison Arens’ younger sister Monica has taken her spot in the starting line up and is currently averaging 9.6 points per game. Liv Korngable has stepped up off the bench with 5.1 points per game in 15.9 minutes.
The Coyotes also rank amongst the nations best in many statistical categories. They ranked second in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (40.8%) and sixth in field-goal percentage (48.6%). USD also ranks in the top ten nationally in scoring margin (+22.6 points) and scoring offense (81.6 points per game). The Coyotes also top the Summit League in all of those categories.
USD leads the Summit League in fewest turnovers per game and assists per game on the offensive end. As for defensive stats, the Coyotes top the conference in three categories. USD has the best defense against three-pointers (29.7% shooting), fewest rebounds allowed (30.2) and scoring defense (59.1 points per game allowed).
Even with all of this success, there are still things the Coyotes are striving to improve upon, Plitzuweit said. The players are willing to admit there is something special about this team, but there are still areas to improve upon.
“That’s what’s really special about us,” Chloe Lamb said. “We’re happy about the win but there’s still things that we can do better. I think that’s what makes us a dangerous team.”
The Coyotes have 10 remaining regular season conference games. The Coyotes are in the driver’s seat for the number one seed come conference tournament March 7-10, as they are the last unbeaten conference team.
“They (the Coyote players) deserve a lot of credit for how hard they competed and how hard they played, but at the same time it’s one basketball game,” Plitzuweit said. “We have a lot of season, and a lot of conference season left to play. It’s an opportunity for us to look at it (Sunday’s game) and gain confidence, but also continue to get better.”