USD's Margaret McCloud

When Lisa Loeffler missed a jumper with 6 minutes and 44 seconds left in the game, there was an audible groan from the crowd.

No, not because she was struggling. The opposite, actually.

That was the only miss of the game (8-of-9) for the senior, who scored a season-high 17 points as the University of South Dakota women held off Fort Wayne 91-80 in Summit League action Friday at the DakotaDome.

“When teams play zone, it gets the little short corner or the high post open,” Loeffler said later, adding with a smile, “and that’s kind of my favorite spot.”

Loeffler, a 6-foot-1 Minnesota native, came in averaging 6.1 points on the season, but has now reached double figures in four of 10 league games for the first-place Coyotes (18-5, 8-2).

“I like to think we have a pretty good connection playing (together) for a couple years,” said senior Nicole Seekamp, who finished with 19 points and 10 assists — four to Loeffler.

“Whenever I’m driving, I know she’s either going to be in the short corner or the elbow. It’s that instinct to pass it there almost.”

Yes, it was the fifth time this season the Coyotes eclipsed 90 points, but a late surge by the Mastodons (8-15, 2-8) didn’t exactly have the hosts feeling as great after the game.

Fort Wayne, keyed by a game-high 27 points from senior Haley Seibert and 13 three-pointers, closed the game on a 23-7 run — preventing another blowout for USD.

In short: Offense isn’t the issue for the Coyotes, according to head coach Amy Williams.

“My concern is on the other end,” she said. “That’s nagging at me; feeling like we’re not polished where we need to be defensively.”

In moving to 11-0 at home this season, the Coyotes dished out at least 20 assists for a second consecutive game. They finished with 26 on 29 baskets Friday.

“As long as you’re in the right spot in the right time, we’re going to give you the ball,” Seekamp said.

Junior Tia Hemiller added 12 points for the Coyotes, who shot 51 percent, while senior Raeshel Contreras, junior Kelly Stewart and sophomore Bridget Arens all added nine points.

The story, though, was the performance of Loeffler.

“She’s a senior and she just knows and understands the way this thing goes,” said Williams, who credited Loeffler’s preparation for a zone defense.

“She’s playing the way we know she can.”

Just about everything went USD’s way on offense in the first half. Seventeen assists on 19 baskets — which resulted in 56 percent shooting — led to a 49-28 halftime lead.

After the Mastodons made a surge early in the second half to get within 12, the Coyotes scored 14 straight to balloon the margin.

Up by as many 27 points with 4:43 to play, the hosts couldn’t find a way to put away the Mastodons. The visitors scored 23 of the game’s final 30 points to make things respectable.

“Coach said in the locker room, when we get tired, we have those kinds of lapses,” Seekamp said. “We just have to keep working on those kinds of things.”

The Coyotes will now hit the road for a Sunday game at North Dakota State.

FORT WAYNE (8-15, 2-8)

Haley Seibert 9-15 4-4 27; Hillary Moore 2-4 0-0 4; Keanna Gary 2-8 0-0 4; Mur Hagerman 0-2 5-6 5; Rachel Rinehart 3-9 5-6 12; KeShyra McCarver 2-6 0-0 6; Courtney Ogle 2-4 1-2 6; Kamilah Carter 3-7 0-0 8; Brett Green 1-1 0-0 2; Allyson Bunch 2-5 0-0 6. TOTALS 26-61 15-18 80.

SOUTH DAKOTA (18-5, 8-2)

Tia Hemiller 2-6 7-8 12; Raeshel Contreras 2-10 4-7 9; Margaret McCloud 3-4 0-0 6; Nicole Seekamp 7-12 4-4 19; Lisa Loeffler 8-9 0-0 17; Kelly Stewart 3-5 1-2 9; Taylor Moore 0-1 0-0 0; Bridget Arens 2-3 5-6 9; Jaylah Jackson 0-2 2-2 2; Kate Liveringhouse 2-3 2-2 6; Heidi Hoff 0-2 2-2 2. TOTALS 29-57 27-33 91.

Halftime: USD 49-28. Three-Pointers: FW 13-28 (Seibert 5-9, Carter 2-3, McCarver 2-4, Bunch 2-5, Ogle 1-2, Rinehart 1-3, Hagerman 0-2), USD 6-18 (Stewart 2-3, Loeffler 1-1, Seekamp 1-3, Hemiller 1-4, Contreras 1-4, Moore 0-1, Hoff 0-2). Total Rebounds: USD 43 (Arens 7), FW 21 (Rinehart 6). Assists: USD 26 (Seekamp 10), FW 12 (Rinehart 4). Turnovers: USD 23, FW 18. Personal Fouls: FW 24, USD 21. Fouled Out: None. Attendance: 1390.

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