FARGO — There are good Summit League women’s basketball teams. And there are nationally ranked programs that are among the top 25 in Division I hoops.
In the University of South Dakota, the shoe fits it all.
North Dakota State dipped its big toe in USD waters on Thursday night and predictably got cold feet. The 21st-ranked Coyotes showed their athleticism early and often and went on to take an 80-36 victory at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
The Coyotes improved to 16-2 overall with the only losses to No. 22 Missouri State and No. 5 South Carolina. The victory resume includes wins over Utah, Missouri, Ohio State, Drake and Creighton.
There have been complete and outstanding teams that have come to Fargo over the years; the Coyotes are as good as anybody. They’re a high major-level team playing in a mid-major conference.
“It was the first time I really felt like our team was intimidated and a little shell-shocked to start the game,” said Bison head coach Jory Collins. “People that I know want us to be better, and nobody wants that more than me and I feel embarrassed that’s the best we can do in the first half. And I learned a lot about some of our players tonight, which in the long run is going to be good for us.”
The long run answer in closing the gap?
“Recruiting, point-blank,” he said. “You have to go out and get some people who want to compete and are talented enough to make plays.”
It was 15-3 before the game was four minutes old and the Coyotes looked like they hadn’t even broken a sweat. It didn’t take long to see why.
Guard Ciara Duffy, a 6-foot senior who is getting WNBA draft consideration, was a step quicker everywhere on the floor. NDSU had no match inside for 6-3 junior center Hannah Sjerven.
NDSU left junior guard Monica Arens alone on the left wing and she drilled two 3-pointers. Three minutes later, it was 23-3. And that spree didn’t even include starting senior guard Madison McKeever from Erskine, Minn., about an hour and a half away northeast of Fargo, who didn’t even take a shot in the first quarter that ended 29-6.
It was 53-11 at halftime and 72-20 after three.
“Coming out of the gates, we’re making shots and getting stops,” McKeever said. “For us, it just happened through the work we put in in the offseason and the preseason and having a lot of tough games in our nonconference.”
It was the fourth year in a row McKeever has had a nice contingent of fans from her hometown area at an NDSU game.
“It’s nice having all of my family and friends that went to my high school, they’re special to me and they’ve been along on my journey since I’ve been 5 years old,” she said.
Like South Dakota State in its title run, it’s not as if the Coyotes had to travel far to recruit their juggernaut. Duffy is from Rapid City, S.D., Sjerven from Rogers, Minn., and Arens from Crofton, Neb.
“They filled their roster with a lot of kids close,” Collins said. “That’s what happens when you’re a perennial winner. We have to find a way in the next couple years to find kids who believe in what we can do here and we’re already well on our way in that regard so that part for us is exciting. But that does nothing for us today.”
About USD’s biggest issue this week is its schedule. The Coyotes bussed back to Vermillion, S.D., Thursday night with one day to prepare for their home rivalry game against SDSU on Saturday afternoon.
“Hopefully the weather isn’t too bad and everyone can get to the game,” McKeever said.
The Bison dropped to 3-13 overall and are looking for their first Summit win at 0-4. A good showing against the University of North Dakota at home on Sunday afternoon could go a long way in looking ahead.
“Great thing about basketball is you don’t have a lot of time, we have to turn around practice at 2:30 tomorrow,” Collins said.
USD 29 53 72 80
NDSU 6 11 20 36
USD (16-2, 5-0 Summit): Sjerven 6-11 2-2 14, Arens 7-7 0-0 18, Lamb 1-5 1-1 3, McKeever 3-7 0-0 8, Duffy 7-11 4-6 20, Korngable 1-4 0-0 3, Frederick 2-3 2-2 6, Ugofsky 0-6 2-2 2, Kunzer 1-3 0-0 2, Bonar 0-1 0-0 0, Guebert 1-2 0-0 3, Sankey 0-1 1-2 1. Totals: 29-61 12-15.
NDSU (3-13, 0-4 Summit): Nudell 1-3 1-2 4, Dietz 1-5 2-2 4, Zivaljevic 0-3 2-2 2, Cobbins 6-12 1-1 15, Gaislerova 1-7 0-0 3, Voegeli 0-1 0-0 0, Terrer van Gool 1-3 1-2 3, Scales 1-5 3-3 5, Rimdal 0-1 0-0 0, Skibiel 0-4 0-0 0. Totals: 11-44 10-12.
Total fouls: USD 19, NDSU 19. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: USD 37 (Duffy 8); NDSU 29 (Zivaljevic 5). 3-point goals: USD 10-24 (Arens 4-4, Lamb 0-2, McKeever 2-5, Duffy 2-3, Korngable 1-3); NDSU 4-19 (Nudell 1-2, Zivaljevic 0-1, Cobbins 2-6, Gaislerova 1-3, Terrer van Gool 0-1, Scales 0-3, Skibiel 0-3). Assists: USD 17 (McKeever 4); NDSU 4 (Zivaljevic 3). Turnovers: USD 8 (Ugofsky 3); NDSU 22 (Gaislerova 5). A-465.