Senior Amber Hegge had 14 points and also keyed the South Dakota women's basketball team's defensive effort as the Coyotes topped Oakland, 49-38, in Summit League action Saturday night at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D. With the win, the Coyotes moved to 20-7 overall – clinching their second straight 20-win season – and 11-6 in the league while Oakland fell to 11-14 overall and 7-10 in the conference.
Hegge (Crofton, Neb.) also added six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in the game. Her defense also played a huge role in slowing down Oakland's Bethany Watterworth, the second-leading scorer in the Summit League this season at more than 19 points per game. Watterworth was held to just 10 points – and hit just 3-of-19 field goals on the night.
The Coyotes held Oakland to 23.6 percent shooting (13-of-55), including 0-of-5 from three-point range. The Coyotes had struggles shooting the ball as well – hitting just 14-of-51 attempts (27.5 percent) – but won because of their defense and free-throw shooting. The Coyotes hit 17-of-21 free throws on the night.
Senior Jodie Boss (Columbus, Neb.) pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds while adding five points and three blocks. Junior guard Alexis Yackley (Onida, S.D.) added nine points, five rebounds, four assists and a game-high three steals for the Coyotes. Senior Annie Roche (Vermillion, S.D.) added nine points, while freshman Kelly Stewart (Amery, Wis.) provided seven key points off the bench.
South Dakota's defensive intensity was evident from the outset. The Coyotes opened the game on an 11-0 run over the first 5:28, and held Oakland without a point for the first 6:07 of the night. The Coyotes hit 6-of-6 free throws during that opening stretch, while Stewart drained a key three-pointer and junior Tempestt Wilson (Elk River, Minn.) added a layup.
The Coyotes controlled play for much of the half as their lead never dropped below five points. They took a 25-15 lead into halftime. It is the 10th time this season the Coyotes have held an opponents to 20 points or less in the first half of a game.
Both teams shot an identical 26.7 percent (7-of-26) in the first half. Hegge had 10 points in the first half, while Stewart had five.
Oakland opened the second half on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 25-23 with 18:02 left. For the next several minutes, the game stayed close. Oakland was within 35-31 but the Coyotes scored six straight points – with Roche, Boss and Hegge each accounting for two – to push the lead back to double digits at 41-31 with 8:35 left.
Oakland cut the lead to 42-36 with 4:02 left, but would get no closer. After the Grizzles cut the lead to 44-38 with 2:01 left, the Coyotes slammed the door, closing the game with a clinching 5-0 run. Yackley was 3-for-4 for the line during that run, while Stewart hit two key free throws.
The Coyotes wrap up their Summit League home season on Monday against Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne. Game time is 7 p.m. at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D.