ST. PAUL, Minn. (USD) — South Dakota improved to 3-0 in Summit League play with a dramatic 58-56 win over St. Thomas Thursday inside Schoenecker Arena.
The Coyotes had three players in double-digit scoring led by Grace Larkins who provided a game-high 12 points and seven rebounds. Alexi Hempe and Walker Demers added 10 points apiece while Morgan Hansen scored nine and Macy Guebert added eight points. It was Hansen’s three free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining that secured the win after St. Thomas had rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to take the lead.
South Dakota (7-7, 3-0 Summit) showcased a solid defensive effort, forcing 20 St. Thomas turnovers and scoring 16 points off of those. The Yotes also scored 12 fast break points and had 13 points from their bench.  
Statistically, St. Thomas (5-8, 0-3) has been the best defensive team in the league and has been holding foes to a 27 percent shooting percentage from three. The Yotes knocked down seven of their 21 attempts to shoot 33 percent from distance. South Dakota also shot 41 percent from the field on 20-of-48 shooting.
Jade Hill had started in every game so far this season for the Tommies until tonight. As their leading scorer (11 ppg), she came off the bench and strung together just four points on foul shots. Sammy Opichka put up a team-high 12 points while Maggie Negaard had 10 for St. Thomas.
The first half was a tight back-and-forth battle that saw the Tommies go up by as many as nine points toward the end of the first quarter. St. Thomas led 24-22 at the half, but South Dakota outscored the Tommies 23-10 in the third. Demers had eight points in the quarter on 4-of-4 shooting and the Coyotes made 11-of-17 shots out of the break after going 7-of-20 in the first half.
Larkins hit a 3 with 5:39 to go that gave South Dakota its largest lead of the night at 53-39. But that turned out to be the Coyotes’ final field goal of the game and the Tommies rallied to take a 56-55 lead with 15 seconds to go on a drive to the hoop by Opichka.
Larkins drew three defenders on the other end and kicked to Hansen in the left corner who was bumped by Jordyn Lamker after releasing the shot. Hansen’s three free throws followed and Hill’s desperation heave from half court bounced away as time expired.
“Road wins can be hard to come by, especially in the Summit League,” said head coach Kayla Karius. “Tonight was a team victory capped off with crucial free throws from Morgan Hansen to seal the game.”
South Dakota heads to Western Illinois on Saturday to take on the Leathernecks at 2 p.m.