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Coyotes Prepare For One Of The Nation’s Best Players In NCAA Tournament Opener

There are a lot of positives for South Dakota heading into their first ever NCAA Division I Tournament this weekend.

The site of the game is a short four-hour drive their Vermillion campus to Ames, Iowa, a place USD has already played this season, giving Coyote fans a chance to easily travel to support their team. It’s something head coach Amy Williams told me she hopes works to her team’s advantage:

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The appearance is a boon for recruiting, pulling the USD program ever so closer to South Dakota State, who’s string of five straight NCAA Tournament appearances ended this year, thanks to a Summit League Tournament loss to their in-state rivals two hours down Interstate 29.

It’s a message coach Amy Williams says she’s already getting out to recruits:

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Saturday’s game also means an extended season for senior Polly Harrington, who’s been playing all year like someone who’s not ready to call it a career anytime soon.  The additional play also means more practices for the returning Coyote players, who will be one of the favorites in the Summit League next season.

But it’s not all rainbows and cotton candy for the Coyotes this weekend.

Chiney Ogwumike #13 - Stanford
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

If 15th seeded South Dakota is going shock the basketball world and upset number two seed Stanford, the Coyotes are going to have to find a way to slow down a VERY good basketball player, Cardinal senior Chiney Ogwumike.

The two-time All-American is third in the nation in scoring (27 points per game) and field goal percentage (61%).  The Cypress, Texas native has 14 30-point games this season and 24 double-doubles in 32 games. She was second in the Pac-12 in rebounding and blocked shots, leading Stanford to a 17-1 conference record.
All season long, USD has faced great individual talent like Amanda Hyde of Fort Wayne, DeAirra Goss of IUPUI, and Ashley Luke of Western Illinois, but coach Williams says Ogwumike presents a totally different challenge:

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With Ogwumike leading the way, the Cardinal are scoring 78 points a game this season.  But equally as impressive is what Stanford does on the defensive end of the floor, where they limit opponents to just 60 points a game:

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Part of the mental preparation for a Coyote team that’s never experienced the NCAA Tournament before is trying to get the players to buy into the nation that this is ‘just another game’.  Coach Williams admits that can be a tough sell:

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Tipoff is 5:30pm Saturday in Ames.  The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN 2.

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