SAN ANTONIO, Texas — South Dakota fought to the end, but could not overcome its first half struggles in a 67-47 loss to sixth-seeded Oregon in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament on Monday night in San Antonio.
The Ducks (14-8) will face third-seeded Georgia in the second round on Wednesday. USD finishes with a 19-6 record.
Erin Boley scored a game-high 22 points to lead Oregon. Nyara Sabally finished with 17 points. Sedona Prince added 12 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Hannah Sjerven posted 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead South Dakota. Liv Korngable scored 15 points. Maddie Krull added seven points and four assists.
As the Ducks prepared to face USD, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves and his staff knew they couldn’t let the Coyotes get comfortable on offense.
“This is the kind of team that, if we were going to stay back and just play kind of a soft defense, they were going to pick us apart,” Graves said in the post-game press conference. “So we had to be the aggressive team. That’s why we wanted to pick them up full court.”
Sjerven had a couple of early baskets as USD led 2-0 and 4-2. But the Oregon defense got things going from there.
Oregon went on an 11-0 run, pushing the lead to 13-4. After a Korngable basket and two Sjerven free throws, the Ducks’ defense got things going again. Oregon scored the final 10 points of the first quarter and the first nine of the second quarter to extend to a 34-8 lead.
“I think we put together as good a first half of defense that I’ve ever been a part of as a coach,” Graves said of the Ducks’ start. “I’m really proud of our team for that.”
Offensively, the Ducks used their size advantage to open things up in the first half.
“One of our goals to start the game was to get the ball inside. We knew that we were going to have an advantage, with Sadona and Nyara inside,” Boley said. “We really were able to pound the ball inside and take advantage of our height and our length”
USD scored its lone second quarter points with 4.5 seconds left, a free throw by Sjerven.
“It certainly wasn’t because of a lack of effort,” said USD head coach Dawn Plitzuweit. “We couldn’t find ways to get good opportunities, and we felt rushed in the second quarter.
“In the third quarter, we settled down.”
The Coyote offense found a bit of rhythm in the third quarter but, unfortunately, the Ducks found theirs again as well. USD outscored Oregon 20-16 in the third quarter, closing to within 21 points after three, 50-29.
“We shifted a little, moved Hannah to the high post,” Plitzuweit said of the halftime adjustments. “We hit one or two, and all of a sudden we felt a lot more comfortable.”
USD closed to within 16 (59-43) in the fourth quarter, but got no closer.
“I want to congratulate the Coyotes on a great season. That is an excellent team. They’re so much fun to watch,” Graves said of the Coyotes. “I really enjoyed preparing for this game just because of the way they play. They play the right way.”
The loss marks the end of an unusual season for the Coyotes, between a shortened non-league schedule and, due to a COVID-related cancellation, playing all eight road Summit League games in succession. It was a season that started with the Coyotes having to replace three of its top six from a season ago, and saw Monica Arens’ season end before it started due to an injury.
“It certainly was a difficult year for everyone. Our team faced some major challenges,” Plitzuweit said. “But we couldn’t have played with more energy or passion for the game than this group did.”
The unusual season also leaves unusual end-of-season questions. Because the NCAA has declared that the 2020-21 basketball season will not count towards an athlete’s four years of eligibility, seniors are left with the question of staying for another season or moving on with their academic and post-collegiate careers. Earlier this season, Chloe Lamb and Korngable both announced they would return, bench spark Claudia Kunzer said she would not, and the other two seniors did not announce decisions.
Sjerven, though, hinted at a return after the game.
“South Dakota, they took a big chance on me. When I transferred, I hadn’t played a lot at New Mexico, and Coach P and the rest of the coaching staff worked with me. I was nowhere near ready to play when I came here,” she said. “I feel like there’s a lot of unfinished business for me here and it would be really hard for me to leave.”
Oregon now turns its attention to Wednesday and the Bulldogs. The teams will play at 2 p.m. at the Alamodome.
“Well, you can’t play a second game if you don’t win the first. We are given another game on Wednesday against Georgia. We’re grateful for that. We’re humbled by the victory,” Graves said. “Just to see some success is really important for this group as we take our program forward.”
Follow @JCimburek on Twitter.
Nyara Sabally 8-12 1-1 17, Taylor Mikesell 2-3 0-0 5, Erin Boley 9-13 0-0 22, Maddie Scherr 1-5 0-0 2, Sedona Prince 5-6 2-2 12, Taylor Chavez 1-1 0-0 3, Arielle Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Lydia Giomi 0-0 0-0 0, Kylee Watson 1-1 0-0 2, Angela Dugalic 0-0 0-0 0, Sydney Parrish 0-4 4-4 4. TOTALS: 27-45 7-7 67.
SOUTH DAKOTA (19-6)
Liv Korngable 6-10 0-0 15, Chloe Lamb 2-12 1-3 6, Jeniah Ugofsky 0-0 0-0 0, Hannah Sjerven 6-19 6-9 18, Maddie Krull 3-14 0-0 7, Claudia Kunzer 0-0 0-0 0, Macy Guebert 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Hansen 0-3 0-0 0, Regan Sankey 0-0 1-2 1, Natalie Mazurek 0-0 0-0 0, Aspen Williston 0-0 0-0 0, Kyah Watson 0-7 0-0 0, Allison Peplowski 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17-65 8-14 47.
OREGON25 9 16 17 — 67
SOUTH DAKOTA8 1 20 18 — 47
Three-Pointers: UO 6-12 (Boley 4-6, Mikesell 1-2, Chavez 1-1, Scherr 0-1, Parrish 0-2), SD 5-23 (Korngable 3-6, Lamb 1-6, Krull 1-4, Sjerven 0-1, Hansen 0-1, Watson 0-5). Rebounds: UO 37 (Prince 7), SD 33 (Sjerven 12). Assists: UO 15 (Boley 4), SD 9 (Krull 4). Personal Fouls: UO 16, SD 10. Fouled Out: Prince. Turnovers: UO 23, SD 14. Blocked Shots: UO 6 (Sabally 2, Prince 2), SD 0. Steals: SD 13 (three with 3), UO 11 (Boley 3, Prince 3).