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    USD WBB: Iowa 78, South Dakota 73

    IOWA CITY, Iowa–Iowa center Megan Gustafson scored a career high 33 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, to guide the Hawkeyes past the Coyotes 78-73 in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

    “I was really proud of how our team competed throughout the course of the game,” said USD head coach Dawn Plitzuweit. “We certainly dug ourselves a bit of a hole early, but to weather that storm and come back and be close at halftime, even having an opportunity going into the fourth quarter with the score tied, and then one shot, one rebound, something goes our way, it can be a different outcome.

    “But it wasn’t, and I thought Iowa did a good job of continuing to attack our low post players, and when we tried to double, then they dumped it down for a layup opportunity. So we tried a couple different ways to guard it, including going into a zone. Gustafson got a huge rebound at the end of the game, and not because our players weren’t trying, she’s just a little better than our players in that position at that time and that possession.”

    South Dakota (23-9) was led by sophomore guard Allison Arens’ team-high 24 points, six assists, six rebounds and three steals. The all-Summit League first team honoree concludes her sophomore campaign ranked seventh on USD’s single season scoring charts with 548 points. Arens, 10-for-13 from the free throw line Saturday, also surpassed Mandy Koupal’s sophomore season for the third-most free throws made in a single season.

    Sophomore guard Jaycee Bradley and freshman guard Ciara Duffy also reached double-figures for the Coyotes with 17 points and 14 points, respectively.

    Bradley finished 6-of-8 from the field and 5-of-6 from outside the arc. With her five made threes, she tied Raeshel Contreras for fourth on USD’s single season charts with 86 3-pointers this season.

    Gustafson, an all-Big Ten honoree for Iowa (19-13), shot 15-of-16 from the field with three free throws to reach 33 points. She also grabbed 13 rebounds for her 17th double-double of the season. Senior guard Ally Disterhoft, Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, was held to 10 points on 2-for-10 shooting with five made free throws. Sophomore forward Hannah Stewart also reached double figures with 11 points.

    After trailing by nine midway through the second quarter, the Coyotes went on a 22-12 run in the final six minutes of the first half. Bradley knocked down three from downtown, including a pair on back-to-back possessions, to lead the Coyotes in the run. South Dakota briefly held the lead, 34-33, on Bradley’s third triple. Disterhoft made a pair of free throws with four seconds remaining to take a 35-34 lead into the break.

    There were five lead changes and three ties in the final 5:36 of the third quarter, an exchange that began with Arens’ driving over a double-team to scoop in a layup. Senior forward Bridget Arens hit a pair of long jumpers and a 3-pointer in a three minute span that gave USD the lead three different times. Iowa’s Makenzie Meyer tied it up at 55 all with a made free throw at the end of the third.

    A pair of USD turnovers allowed Iowa to jump out to a 6-0 run at the beginning of the fourth period. A pair of free throws from Arens and a deep 3-pointer by Duffy closed the gap to 72-70 with 1:09 to play. After grabbing an offensive rebound to extend the shot clock, Gustafson hit a jumper with 25 seconds left to put the Hawkeyes up by four. A missed jumper by USD on the next possession forced the Coyotes to foul and sent the Hawkeyes to the free-throw line, where senior Alexa Kastanek put the game away for Iowa.

    “I think it’s disappointing to end that way, but I think every girl on our team really bought into what we were trying to accomplish today,” said Bridget Arens. “We may not have come out on top, but I think everybody gave their best effort, and we hope to do that every time we step foot on the floor.”

    Seniors Bridget Arens and Abigail Fogg both scored seven points in their final games as Coyotes. Arens stepped on the court for her 137th career game Saturday, a South Dakota program record.

    With seven underclassmen on the roster, including a freshman and two sophomores in the starting lineup, the future is bright for the South Dakota women’s basketball.

    “It’s really exciting for us,” said Plitzuweit. “We just talked to our players in the locker room about the way that they approached the season. They easily could have come in and said, well, we have had success and we have done it a very different way, and so we’re not really sure, but they never did that. They were always players that bought in. They worked really hard. They were incredibly coachable. They gave great effort and they continued to grow. Our underclassmen have gotten some valuable minutes this season and we are very excited about the future of the program.”

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