With one more home game before road match-ups with its two biggest rivals, the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team was desperate for its first conference win of the season.
What resulted was one of the team’s best halves of basketball this season, head coach Amy Williams said. The Coyotes turned in a rout on the scoreboard as they defeated Nebraska-Omaha 75-51 at the DakotaDome.
“It feels much better to get a win,” Williams said.
The Coyotes were 0-4 in Summit League conference basketball before Saturday’s contest and were suffering from a four-game losing streak. But the team came out, took the lead four minutes in and never trailed for the rest of the game.
Junior forward Lisa Loeffler recorded a double-double and led all scorers with 17 points. Loeffler scored every one of her 17 points in the first half, more than the entire Omaha team combined.
Loeffler said a little bit of extra practice before the game was what led to the big performance.
“They played a zone, and we knew where they were going to play the zone. I went in and got extra shots up and hit those short corner shots,” she said. “The team did a great job of dishing it out for me. It felt good.”
It wasn’t, however, offense that stood out to the players in the game. After allowing 80 points in four straight games and six 20 point scorers in those games, Omaha was limited to just 51 and had no player crack double digit points.
“It’s all about defense. Tia (Hemiller), Raeshel (Contreras), a lot of deflections, steals, getting in there and digging the ball off the post, leaking out and getting those easy baskets,” senior forward Polly Harrington said. “Everyone did a good job on defense tonight, and it just let that lead expand.”
Omaha came out with the first four points of the game. That’s where the momentum stopped.
The Mavericks’ leading scorer, senior guard Ericka House, who averaged 18.3 points per game before the game, scored early but ended with only five points. Omaha’s leading scorer ended up being freshman forward Sami Pawlak with nine.
The Coyotes can hang their hats on the whole performance as they won almost every category in the box score, but they know North Dakota State and South Dakota State are where their minds should be.
“Doesn’t matter who the opponent is, it’s about just going out and doing what we can,” Loeffler said.
USD is scheduled to face NDSU Thursday at 7 p.m. in Fargo, N.D.