If there was any doubt about how the South Dakota women's basketball team would respond in the opening of their third straight trip to the WNIT, the Coyotes provided a quick - and resounding - answer.

USD (23-8), the defending WNIT champs, ran off 11 of the first 13 points of the game against North Dakota, Thursday night (March 16), and never looked back, winning 78-55.

The celebration is short lived for the Coyotes, who hopped on a bus less than 24 hours later for a trip to battle Iowa, Saturday afternoon.

The Hawkeyes (18-13), out of the Big Ten, beat Missouri State in their WNIT opener. Iowa scored 95 points in the victory, including 52 in the second half. Their five starters shot a combined 62 percent. They scored 50 points in the paint as a team.

Iowa's offense ranks in the top 25 in the nation. They are the 12th most accurate shooting team in the NCAA (47%), and rank in the top 20 in assists.

Sophomore forward Megan Gustafson had 15 double-doubles this season, ranks fifth in the nation with a 63 percent field goal percentage, and is also in the top 30 in rebounding.

Tipoff in Iowa City is 3:00 PM, Saturday (March 18).

In South Dakota's win over North Dakota in round one, the Coyotes got a big night from a player who paced them most of the first half of the season. Sophomore Allison Arens was 8-of-9 from the floor in the first half, scoring 16 of her game-high 24 points.

Arens, who had averaged 20 points per game in the first nine Summit League games of the year, saw her production drop off sharply over the last eight games, averaging just seven a game while shooting just 24 percent during that time. Thursday was the first time she'd topped 20 in a game since late January.

The Coyote defense was tenacious, forcing 20 Fighting Hawks turnovers and converting them into 27 points. Arens was the leader there too, with seven steals. UND shot just 32 percent on the night.

USD's starters shot 56 percent from the floor, 5-of-9 from the three-point line.

I talked with Coyotes head coach Dawn Plitzuweit about the North Dakota win and the match-up with Iowa:

This is the Coyotes' third straight WNIT appearance (8-1 overall):

  • 2015 - Beat Creighton. Eliminated by Northern Colorado.
  • 2016 - Beat Creighton, Minnesota, Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky, Oregon, and Florida Gulf Coast to win the championship.

USD also played in the NCAA Tournament in 2014, losing to Stanford in the opening round.

In 2011 and 2013, the Coyotes went 2-2 in back-to-back appearances in the WBI.