SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The next step will have to wait at least another year for North Dakota State's women's basketball team.
Despite making their second straight appearance in the Summit League tournament semifinals, a program first, the gap between the Bison and one of the conference's power programs, South Dakota, was evident Monday.
As a result, NDSU's won't make its first appearance in the conference championship game.
The second-seeded Coyotes whipped the third-seeded Bison 81-55 at the Sanford Pentagon, earning their ninth berth in the league championship game in the past 10 years.
The Bison finished 15-9, their first winning season since 2009-10.
"It was a great year for us as far as us making a jump and improving and growing and trying to become who we want to be," Bison head coach Jory Collins said. "Another steppingstone this year. We're looking forward to building on it."
Liv Korngable led the Coyotes with 20 points and Chloe Lamb added 18.
Reneya Hopkins topped NDSU with 13 points and Ryan Cobbins had eight.
USD held Heaven Hamling, NDSU's leading scorer, to seven points on 2 of 11 shooting, including 1 of 6 on 3-pointers.
Emily Dietz, averaging 10 points a game for NDSU, had only one field goal and finished with two points.
"Obviously our kids that we really count on had some rough days today. Heaven, Ryan and Dietz, it just wasn't their day today," Collins said. "We're not going to win against that caliber of team without those guys probably playing well."
NDSU was 19 of 56 from the field (34%) and just 3 of 15 on 3-pointers.
USD, long a conference power with in-state rival South Dakota State, will be shooting for its third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. Its chances are good in Wednesday's championship game that comes with an automatic bid to the NCAA: USD (18-5) will play No. 8 seed Omaha (7-12), who beat the top-seeded Jackrabbits and fifth-seeded Western Illinois to earn an unlikely berth.
The title game is 1 p.m. Tuesday. It will be televised by ESPNU.
For NDSU, the defeat was a disappointment in that it believed it was ready to compete with the Coyotes in a big-game situation. While it was USD's 11th straight victory over NDSU, the Bison lost by just a point to the Coyotes last month in Vermillion.
USD won by 20 the next night, but Collins viewed the weekend as a step in the right direction.
Instead, USD dominated after going on a 13-0 run that began midway through the first quarter to break open a game that was tied 10-10.
The Coyotes said being familiar with the Bison helped.
"I think just learning from those past two games and being a little more focused, knowing what's going on, being able to lock down a little bit better," Lamb said.
The Coyotes did the most damage in the paint. Maddie Krull started the run with a layup and Korngable followed with another bucket in the lane. After a 3-pointer from Korngable, Allison Peplowski scored inside to give USD a 19-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Inside baskets by Chloe Lamb and Hannah Sjerven to open the second quarter gave USD a 23-10 lead.
"Every game, every opponent we play we kind of want to define ourselves, get in the paint early. Those are easy buckets for us. We feel confident in the paint," Lamb said. "That's something that's always kind of a focus for us and this game was no different."
The Coyotes stretched the lead to 20 points in the first half and led 42-26 at halftime.
USD got 11 baskets in the paint in the first half, including nine layups. The Coyotes finished with 14 layups as NDSU did a better job defending inside after halftime.
"They had a ton of points in the paint. Not post-ups, but hitting cutters on the run and doing some post-up with the guards, getting posted in the paint with multiple different players," Collins said. "When you're capable of doing that, those are really hard things to guard. I thought we did a better job in the second half. We had more urgency coming out in the third quarter, but obviously we were a little too far behind."
NDSU cut the lead to 13 points in the third quarter, but the Coyotes stretched it to 26 midway through the fourth.
The Bison have just two seniors, Dietz and Michelle Gaislerova, so they will return most of their roster.
"I think Jory has done just an outstanding job in a lot of ways. One, in terms of bringing in players and developing players that were there when he got there," USD coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. "From a personnel standpoint, he's done a tremendous job. On top of that, they are so well-disciplined. They are so well-versed in what they are doing. He's done a tremendous job."
NDSU 10 16 18 11 — 55
USD 19 23 22 17 — 81
NDSU (15-8): Hopkins 4-12 3-3 13, Hamling 2-11 2-3 7, Schulte 2-4 0-0 4, Dietz 1-7 0-2 2, Cobbins 1-3 6-8 8, Strop 0-0 0-0 0, Behnke 0-0 0-0 0, Gaislerova 3-5 1-1 7, Skibiel 2-5 0-0 4, Epperson 0-0 0-0 0, Deaton 4-9 2-3 10. Totals 19-56 14-20 55.
USD (17-5): Korngable 8-11 1-1 20, Lamb 7-12 1-1 18, Ugofsky 4-5 1-1 9, Sjerven 2-5 6-8 10, Krull 4-10 4-4 13, Kunzer 0-1 0-0 0, Hansen 1-3 2-2 4, Sankey 0-0 0-0 0, Mazurek 0-1 0-0 0, Guebert 0-1 0-0 0, Williston 0-1 1-2 1, Peplowski 1-2 4-6 6. Totals 27-52 20-25 81.
3-point goals: NDSU 3-15 (Hamling 1-6, Hopkins 2-4, Schulte 0-1, Cobbins 0-2, Skibiel 0-1, Deaton 0-1), USD 7-17 (Korngable 3-4, Lamb 3-6, Ugofsky 0-1, Krull 1-2, Hansen 0-1, Guebert 0-1, Peplowski 0-1). Rebounds: NDSU 33 (Dietz 6), USD 33 (Lamb 6). Assists: NDSU 2 (Dietz 1, Deaton 1), USD 17 (Lamb 4). Turnovers: NDSU 14 (Hopkins 4), USD 10 (three players with 2).