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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 10 2013

Second-half run dooms Bison women

SIOUX FALLS, S.D – It wasn’t just a run of points the University of South Dakota put up against North Dakota State. It was a marathon of unanswered scoring.

The Coyotes strung together 18 straight points in the second half to take a 73-53 victory in the first round of the Summit League women’s basketball tournament. The loss before 3,971 fans at the Sioux Falls Arena Sunday afternoon ended NDSU’s season at 10-19 overall, the most defeats since a 13-19 season in 1978-79.

It also dropped NDSU’s record in the Summit tournament to 1-5, with the only victory coming in 2009 – the first year of Division I eligibility when the Bison defeated Western Illinois in the opening round. The difficulty of it all – the losses, injuries and illnesses that plagued the team all year – appeared to finally catch up to the head coach, who broke down in the post-game press conference when asked about how she would remember this season.

“If you haven’t laughed, or cried or gotten angry or something, you haven’t had a full day,” Carolyn DeHoff said, after a long pause. “So I have to say that with this group, the seniors, have set what I believe as a head coach is what a program should entail with high character kids that are hard workers, show up every day, face adversity, whether it’s an opponent or whether it’s a health issue or an injury.

“You just do everything you possibly can for the betterment of the group. You stay the course and you stay together and they’ve done that because they’ve kept me together. I’m sorry, but this is the first chance I’ve really had a chance just to break down and this is not the place to do it. “

For a while, the sixth-seeded Bison were on course to surprise the third-seeded Coyotes, who were making their first-ever post-season appearance as a Division I school. USD finished its five-year reclassification last year.

“The University of South Dakota has been waiting a long time for this and it’s finally here,” said senior guard Tempestt Wilson.

The second half started innocently enough for the Bison, who outscored the Coyotes 9-2 to start the second half to take a 35-30 lead. That’s when NDSU’s offense came to an abrupt stop and the Coyotes started their engines.

Sam Mehr’s 3-pointer started the momentum that the Bison could not answer. Nicole Seekamp’s trey gave USD a 37-35 lead. Later, Wilson’s 3-pointer culminated the 18 in a row and it was 48-35 in a span that saw the Bison go over seven minutes without scoring.

“After their run, we took a time out and said ‘everyone calm down, we have to pick up the defensive pressure,’ ” Wilson said.

Specifically, that pressure focused on stopping Bison guard Katie Birkel, who had 13 of her 20 points in the first half.

“Our defense and rebounding carried us the first half and then we went on a drought offensively,” Birkel said.

NDSU has been susceptible to scoring lapses this season, with DeHoff pointing to a lack of a bench as a big reason. Case in point came Sunday: The Coyote reserves outscored NDSU’s 30-2.

“Certainly runs are sometimes the result kids coming off the bench with other (team’s) players,” DeHoff said, “and us not having more production off the bench.”

NDSU (10-19): Keena 3-8 2-2 8, Whittle 2-10 0-0 5, DeGagne 5-16 0-1 12, Birkel 8-14 0-0 20, Van Kirk 3-8 0-0 6, Johnson 1-8 0-0 2, Gaines 0-4 0-0 0. Totals: 22-68 2-3 53.

USD (16-14): Harrington 4-11 -1 9, Loeffler 1-3 0-0 2, Wilson 4-12 4-6 15, Yackley 1-6 0-0 2, Seekamp 6-12 2-2 15, Mehr 5-7 0-0 14, January 1-3 0-0 2, McCloud 5-7 0-0 10, Hoff 1-2 1-2 4. Totals: 28-63 8-11 73.

Halftime: USD 28, NDSU 26. Total fouls: NDSU 12, USD 10. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: NDSU 40 (DeGagne 9); USD 45 (Loeffler, Wilson 7). 3-point goals: NDSU 7-20 (Whittle 1-3, Birkel 4-6, DeGagne 2-2, Van Kirk 0-4, Johnson 0-3, Gaines 0-2); USD 9-22 (Harrington 0-2, Wilson 3-7, Yackley 0-2, Seekamp 1-3, Mehr 4-6, Hoff 1-2). Assists: NDSU 12 (Keena 3); USD 19 (Seekamp 5). Turnovers: NDSU 8 (DeGagne, Birkel 2); USD 6 (Harrington 2). A-3,971

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia