South Dakota women's basketball dominated inside in loss to Drake

There’s more than just one reason South Dakota struggled to slow Drake down low. The Bulldogs moved a lot, and the Coyotes need to communicate better. The Coyotes’ bigs immediately got into foul trouble. Drake is fast, causing USD to play small, and it had to do so without its best rebounders on the floor.

So, early and often in the game, Drake got inside and scored and scored. And when those same opportunities came to the Coyotes, it couldn’t convert.

“We've got to find a way to just be better,” South Dakota head coach Kayla Karius said.

The Coyotes (4-5) were dominated inside in a lopsided 83-54 loss to Drake (4-2) Tuesday at Sanford Coyote Sports Center. Drake scored 60 points in the paint while out-rebounding the Coyotes 54-33. When USD found some 3-pointers in the second half, it was too late for a comeback. And even still, it didn’t hit enough of them in an overall 28% shooting performance, hitting just 25% of its shots from beyond the arc.

Sophomore guard Grace Larkins led the Coyotes with 13 points and sophomore forward Morgan Hansen contributed 10 as the only other player for the Coyotes in double-figures.

South Dakota basketball tile
South Dakota basketball tile

The Coyotes were without Nicole Avila-Ambrosi Tuesday after losing Madison Grange to a season-ending knee injury a few weeks early, and had to mix in a lot of players “out of position,” Karius said. The Coyotes had to “respect” the 3-pointer, and inside the arc, they hardly put the ball on the ground. The “fast-passed” passing lost USD possession after possession.

“It's just physicality,” Hansen said. “We know our personnel, we know where we're supposed to be, now it's just being physical with those posts.”

South Dakota’s first half started bad, and just got worse. The Coyotes shot just 25% in the first quarter, but a hook shot by Jeniah Ugofsky on a second-chance opportunity made the score 16-14 Drake at the end of the first quarter.

But that was as close as the game would be for the remainder of the opening 20 minutes. The Coyotes had a couple strong defensive possessions, sticking with the Bulldogs on the ball and forcing a mistake. So, Drake opted not to put the ball on the ground as much, and USD was totally lost. A few quick passes freed Drake players on the way to easy layups.And as the Bulldogs finally got going offensively, South Dakota’s output became even less. USD scored just five points in the second quarter, shooting a paltry 12.5% from the field in the period. Then came the turnovers: Drake intercepted ill-advised passes the top of the key parallel to the baseline and miscommunications on entry passes to the post.

“I think everyday we're getting better and better, and more comfortable with each other,” Larkins said. “But it's always a work in progress.”

When the quick-passing broke down the Coyotes enough, it opened things up for Drake off the dribble. Guards Katie Dinnebier and Megan Meyer just needed a behind-the-back move or two and they were already at the rim for a layup. The Coyotes, by the time the second quarter ended on an 18-0 Drake run over the final 6:06, were down by 25 points against a team that missed 10 of its 12 3-pointers.

But Drake didn’t need to even shoot them. The Coyotes were dominated inside from start to finish. In the second half, the Bulldogs continued to get inside easily. And when they did get in the paint, there was little resistance under the hoop.

Even when Drake opted to shoot from the outside, the Bulldogs forwards reached over the top of USD defenders without hardly even jumping on misses, grabbing away offensive rebounds. That is, when they didn’t fly straight into their hands. USD opted to pull back off offensive rebounds in the second half to counter the damage Drake was doing in transition. But, no matter the change, the Coyotes had no answer.

“As soon as the second quarter got rolling our confidence dipped and then we stopped being as aggressive,” Karius said. “When we couldn't score, then all of a sudden they're getting run outs and transition, and transition, and it just snowballed.”

Follow Sioux Falls Argus Leader reporter Michael McCleary on Twitter @mikejmccleary.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota women's basketball dominated inside in loss to Drake