By Bryan Boettcher
VERMILLION, S.D.—Four South Dakota starters scored at least 14 points and Kelly Stewart added eight points off the bench as the Coyotes opened the second half of Summit League play with an 88-67 win against Denver Friday inside the DakotaDome.
The Coyotes (12-11, 3-5 Summit) have won three of four to move one game back of third place Western Illinois and Fort Wayne. Denver (5-18, 3-5) has lost three in a row.
USD senior post Polly Harrington was 6 of 6 in the second half, 8 of 10 for the game and led all players with 18 points and nine rebounds. She scored three buckets in the first two minutes of the second half as part of a 23-9 run to begin the stanza. The Coyotes led 33-30 at halftime.
In addition to a balanced offense, the Coyotes were balanced on defense. Denver was 3 of 17 from three-point range and shot 42 percent from inside the arc. Forward Theresa Wirth and guard Morgan Van Riper-Rose combined to score 48 points the first time these two teams met. They totaled 11 Friday on 5 of 15 shooting.
Nicole Seekamp returned to the starting lineup and scored 17 points for the Coyotes. Raeshel Contreras had 15 points, three assists and three steals. Point guard Tia Hemiller scored 12 first-half points, then handed our seven second-half assists. She totaled 14 and eight to go with five boards.
The difference was the first nine minutes of the second half. The Coyotes made 10 of their first 13 shots, most of them at close range. Harrington had four buckets. Forward Lisa Loeffler had two scores. Contreras hit a 3, then worked around the paint for an easy layup. Margaret McCloud and Maddy White added buckets off the bench.
Denver, meanwhile, made 11 of 35 shots in the second half for 31 percent. Alison Janecek, who averages five points, led the Pioneers with 17 on 7 of 11 shooting. Kailey Edwards had 11. Point guard Paige Bradley had nine, but was 1 of 9 from the field.
The Coyotes played the first game of a season-long, three-game home stand. Next week USD hosts Fort Wayne Thursday (Feb. 13) and IUPUI Saturday (Feb. 15).