South Dakota guard Liv Korngable waited until the Jackrabbits' last-second shot clanked off the rim at the end of the first half then slowly walked to the bench and placed her hands on her knees, gasping for air.
The USD point guard had just hit an up-and-under layup to put the Coyotes (12-4, 5-0 Summit) up 35-25, the end of the second-quarter burst that sparked a 65-42 win over South Dakota State (8-8, 4-1) at Sanford Coyote Sports Center on Saturday. She was exhausted. South Dakota, which has won each of its four Summit League games before Saturday by an average margin of 25.2 points per contest, had to work for this one.
“Fast start to a great game, great rivalry,” South Dakota head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said.
Yet the result was still the same. Matched up with the Summit League’s second-best team, the Coyotes were still dominant. USD rebounded better. It shot better. It took care of the ball better. They turned a 15-5 second-quarter run into a 23-point victory, making a Jackrabbits team that has torn through its nonconference schedule and that was supposed to be the one to challenge the Coyotes look like it has every conference opponent before them.
Kyah Watson had a season-high 14 points. “My shots were just falling,” Watson said. Hannah Sjerven had 13 rebounds. Chloe Lamb (10) and Liv Korngable (15) were their usual scoring selves combining for 25. No South Dakota State player scored in double digits (Tori Nelson led with nine points).
“They came out with a lot of energy,” SDSU guard Tylee Irwin said. “They definitely executed their plan better than we did today.”
Five games into each team’s conference schedule, the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is wide. The Jackrabbits faltering in Vermillion could be an outlier in the grand scheme of their Summit League schedule, but for as long as they continue to win conference games, another matchup with USD awaits — in the regular-season and in the Summit League tournament, where the Coyotes can end their season for good.
It almost started to look lopsided right away — USD center Hannah Sjerven played catch with herself, missing a right-handed layup, collecting the rebound and then scoring — but the Jackrabbits stayed competitive for the first eight minutes. At the end of the first quarter, Paige Meyer faked out Maddie Krull and finished a layup through traffic to put SDSU up 20-19.
“(Kyah)’s first two 3s for us were big 3s to kind of calm everyone’s nerves,” Plitzuweit said. “To say, ‘OK, they’re making 3s. I guess we can, too.”
Coyotes guard Liv Korngable immediately raced down the other end, split two defenders and drew a foul, hitting one of two to make it a tie game at the end of the quarter. Yet as the first eight minutes closed, USD still needed to “weather the storm,” Plitzuweit said. South Dakota missed three free throws. South Dakota State was hitting their shots, particularly Myah Selland (seven points).
Yet the swinging pendulum that was the first quarter didn’t last. USD let up just five points in the second quarter, establishing a 10-point lead by halftime. No one could get a rebound over Sjerven, who finished with 14 points to go with her rebounds. Korngable said it would be tough to lose if Sjerven were to dominate like this again.
“Us on the perimeter,” Korngable said. “We get to reap the benefits of their hard work.”
At the start of the third quarter, USD guard Kyah Watson snuck to the corner and hit a 3-pointer to give her the season-high and point guard Maddie Krull couldn’t keep a smile off her face as she backpedaled onto the defensive end. That basket alone would nearly match SDSU, who scored just five points alone in the third quarter, yet the Coyotes poured on another 15 more.
Late in the period, Maddie Krull fired long on a 3-pointer from the left corner and the ball trickled out to the wing. Sjerven — who found her way to nearly every available offensive rebound — couldn’t quite get to it, but slapped at the ball with her fingertips and hit it off of a Jackrabbits player. Jeniah Ugofsky caught Sjerven as her momentum took her to the bench and screamed into her ear. The lead grew to 22 at the end of the quarter. South Dakota was having fun.
“Their defense was better than our offense,” South Dakota State head coach Aaron Johnston said. “We just never really got anything going.”
As the final minute of the game wound down, USD replaced all its starters, who watched the rest of the rout unfold on the bench, clapping as the seconds wound down, choosing to stay on their feet.
Follow Sioux Falls Argus Leader reporter Michael McCleary on Twitter @mikejmccleary.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota vs. South Dakota State women's basketball: USD wins 65-42