USD advances past Creighton in WNIT
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USD advances past Creighton in WNIT

It was another tale of two halves for the University of South Dakota, as the Coyotes defeated Creighton 68-58 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament — despite letting an 18-point lead dwindle to three.

“(It was) fun to get back in here in the Dome, fun to play in front of our fans again, fun to have an opportunity to coach these seniors and outstanding to come away with a win against a quality opponent like Creighton,” head coach Amy Williams said.

The Coyotes scored the first 10 points of the game right at the start of the first half — a lead that would be important for the rest of the game.

“We haven’t had the best record with Creighton, so we did have a little bit of a vengeance to get back at them, and since we lost against State,” senior guard Nicole Seekamp said. “We knew we had to get out to a good start that allows our team to settle into the game better and get focused.”

Senior guard Raeshel Contreras scored 11 points at the half, followed by Seekamp with nine points and four rebounds. Junior guard Kelly Stewart added eight points.

“Our mentality is always to be aggressive and try to get to the basket,” Seekamp said. “We are good shooters and find that open shot, but tonight we collapsed their defense.”

Meanwhile, Creighton’s Alexis Akin-Otiko scored 13 points and had four steals. Sydney Lamberty added seven points.

“We had to defend the three-point line and we defended it pretty well. We had to attack and stuck to the game plan,” Contreras said.

The second half was much different, as Creighton closed the gap to three with less than two minutes to go. But senior forward Lisa Loeffler sealed the game for the Coyotes with a three-pointer.

“When they got close, it seemed like they were running the same type of play and capitalizing off of that. Eventually we adjusted,” Seekamp said. “We knew they were going to go to Akin-Otiko and Janning, their best players, we just had to work as a team and play group defense.”

Seekamp led the team with 21 points and three assists. Contreras added 14 and Stewart had 10. Loeffler and junior guard Tia Hemiller each had six rebounds.

“We rebounded the basketball and we thought that would be huge. We out-rebounded them by 15 and allowed us to over come 21 turnovers. That was a very critical stat,” Williams said.

The Coyotes out-rebounded Creighton 43-28, but had 21 turnovers compared to Creighton’s nine.

“They were really active and long. A lot of our turnovers were off of deflection. We never just gave them the ball,” Contreras said. “They played pretty good defense and capitalized off of our lazy passes and staring our man down.”

Creighton’s Akin-Otiko had 23 points and five steals. Janning added 11 points and Rollerson had 10 rebounds and five blocks.

“We managed not to let Janning go off on us,” Seekmap said. “If she would have got going a bit more, that would have been tough for us to defend her.”

The Coyotes continue the season with a 26-7 record, ending Creighton’s season with a 17-14 record. The Coyotes will travel to play Northern Colorado on Sunday, March 22 at 4 p.m.

“We found a new goal and that is to win WNIT or get as far as we can,” Seeekamp said. “This first win obviously boosts our confidence more and lead us into those next games.”

(Photo: Senior guard Nicole Seekamp goes up for a layup during Thursday night’s first round WNIT 68-58 win over Creighton. The Coyotes will travel to Greenley, Colo. to compete against Northern Colorado for the second round game. Chris Timmerman / The Volante)