VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) —St. Thomas got its statement win and it came at the expense of South Dakota Saturday. The Tommies saw a 22-point lead with 11 minutes to go dwindle to five with 3:30 left but held on for a 70-64 victory inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
Jo Langbehn scored 15 points in 13 minutes of work to lead St. Thomas (8-13, 3-8 Summit), but the difference makers were Jordyn Lamker and Sammy Opichka who combined for 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting off the Tommies bench. St. Thomas shot 57 percent over the first three quarters and took a 63-43 lead into the fourth.
South Dakota point guard Grace Larkins got her third consecutive double-double and fifth of the season. She led all players with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Carley Duffney added 13 points for USD (11-11, 7-4), which saw a three-game win streak come to a halt.
St. Thomas led 23-19 after one and the Tommies kept rolling in the second while the Coyotes slowed down. USD didn’t score its first point in the frame until Morgan Hansen made two free throws with 3:34 to go before halftime. The Tommies’ lead was 41-27 at the break.
“We didn’t really have it from the start today and we’re disappointed because we know we didn’t put our best effort out there on the floor,” said USD head coach Kayla Karius. “We shot the ball well outside of that second quarter so for us to get down 20 is evidence of our lack of effort on the defensive end.”
It was a surprising result for how well South Dakota had played defensively during its three-game win streak. Also in that Maggie Negaard, the Tommies’ leading scorer, along with guard Jade Hill didn’t factor much in the decision. Negaard, who had posted a pair of 20-plus games of late, was held to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting. Hill had six points on 2-of-9. The rest of the Tommies combined to make 22-of-37.
“Macy Guebert did a nice job on one of their best players and we appreciate and value the effort that she brings,” said Karius. “Now we just need it from more people. They had a really good shooting night, but it takes two teams for that to happen.”
South Dakota’s comeback was fast and furious. The Coyotes scored on six of their first seven possessions of the fourth quarter to make it 65-58 with 5:44 left. Hansen, Larkins and Nicole Avila-Ambrosi all made three-pointers during the stretch. A steal by Avila-Ambrosi led to an Alexi Hempe fast break layup and it was 65-60 with 3:30 to go.
And South Dakota had three more chances to draw closer. Duffney was called for an illegal screen, Guebert missed a 3 from the corner and Hempe couldn’t handle a hot pass in the paint from Larkins. Finally, Langbehn put it away on the Tommies’ side with a put back with 31 seconds left. It was the third and fourth points of the quarter for St. Thomas.
South Dakota next faces North Dakota State Thursday in Fargo, North Dakota.