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    USD WBB: South Dakota 78, North Dakota 55

    VERMILLION, S.D.–South Dakota sophomore guard Allison Arens recorded her 13th 20-point game this season to lead the Coyotes past North Dakota 78-55 in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center on Thursday.

    South Dakota (23-8, 11-5 Summit League) travels to Iowa (18-13) for the second round of the WNIT. The game is slated for 3 p.m. Saturday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes are one of four Big Ten programs in the WNIT this season.

    “We did a great job of competing in this game,” said USD head coach Dawn Plitzuweit. “Our team was hungry, got after it and set the tempo early on by the way we defended and attacked in transition. When you play with great energy, it’s a lot easier to play with confidence. We started out the game that way and it is how we played all game long. North Dakota’s a talented and well-coached basketball team. We were fortunate to come out and play well tonight to move on to the next round.”

    An all-Summit League first team pick, Arens was nearly perfect in shooting 11-of-13 from the field to reach 24 points. The effort moved her to eighth on South Dakota’s single-season charts with 524 points this season. Arens also swiped away a career high seven steals and handed out four assists in the game.

    South Dakota started the game on a 24-9 run with 10 quick points by Arens. After the first quarter, the Fighting Hawks never closed the gap to less than double digits.

    The Coyotes drew the lead out further at the start of the fourth quarter as Arens found sophomore guard Jaycee Bradley wide open for a pair of 3-pointers. Bradley’s threes came on back-to-back USD possessions and a made free throw by Bradley the next possession extended the Coyotes’ lead to 25. Bradley scored 14 points in the game, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists.

    Four Coyotes reached double-digits in total, including senior center Abigail Fogg tallying her ninth consecutive double figure game with 13 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Freshman forward Taylor Frederick tied her career high of 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting with a pair of made threes.

    North Dakota (20-11, 15-3 Big Sky) was led by seniors Makailah Dyer and Leah Szabla with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Dyer was an all-Big Sky first team honoree. Sophomore Bailey Strand chipped in nine points. No Fighting Hawk player made more than three field goals as UND shot 32.2 percent (19-of-59) from the field.

    South Dakota made 34-of-61 (55.7 percent) from the field and 7-of-14 (50 percent) from outside the arc.

    The Fighting Hawks edged the Coyotes out on the boards, 39-36, but both teams scored seven second chance points in spite of UND’s 14 offensive rebounds. Freshman guard Ciara Duffy led the Coyotes off the glass with eight rebounds.

    The Coyotes capitalized on North Dakota’s turnovers, scoring 27 points on 20 UND turnovers. Led by Arens’ seven, the Coyotes had nine steals in the game.

    Also of note, former volleyball standout and fifth-year senior Kelsey Biltoft notched her first collegiate points and dished out an assist after checking into the game in the final minute.

    Saturday will mark South Dakota’s third road game in 12 WNIT contests. The Coyotes are 1-1 on the road in the WNIT over the past two seasons.

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