SIOUX FALLS, S.D.—South Dakota’s big three got an assist from a little one in advancing to the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament. Freshman Grace Larkins scored a career-high 23 points and the two-time defending champion Coyotes beat Western Illinois 75-49 Saturday inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.

Co-champions during the regular season and the tournament’s No. 2 seed, South Dakota has reached the semifinals for the ninth time in 10 appearances. The Coyotes (25-5) will face the winner of No. 3 Kansas City and No. 6 North Dakota State at 3 p.m. Monday. Kansas City and NDSU square off at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Larkins, named the Summit’s Sixth Woman of the Year this week, checked in less than four minutes into the contest and surpassed her previous career-high of 16 points by halftime. She made 6-of-11 shots in the opening stanza where she totaled 17 points, and the Coyotes took a 41-26 lead into the break.

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Hannah Sjerven (11), Liv Korngable (10), and Chloe Lamb (6) combined for 27 South Dakota points, and neither played more than 27 minutes. Sjerven pulled down a game-high eight rebounds in just 13 minutes of work. She picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter and wasn’t needed for the fourth.

Lamb needed six points to tie Ciara Duffy for third place on the Coyotes’ all-time scoring list with 1,793 points and made a pair of 3-pointers to get there. She also pulled down seven rebounds and handed out two assists.

Western Illinois (14-15) got 17 points from Danni Nichols and 10 from Evan Zars but lost to USD for the third time this season and for the second time in less than a week. South Dakota earned 18 steals – third-most in tournament history – forced 24 turnovers and held the Leathernecks to 3-of-16 shooting from beyond the arc. Western Illinois entered play averaging close to nine 3-pointers per game.

“Our awareness, especially defensively, allowed us to get stops, get out in transition, and pick up a great win to kick off the Summit League Tournament,” said USD head coach Dawn Plitzuweit. “We will now work to rest and prepare for our game on Monday and remember to wear red as we paint the PREMIER Center red on Monday!”

South Dakota scored the game’s first nine points and Sjerven had six of them. Western Illinois came back and tied the game at 13-13. Korngable hit a pull-up jumper in the paint before Larkins rattled off three left-handed layups to give USD a 21-15 lead after one

A 3-pointer by Larkins and a 3-point play by Korngable ignited a 12-2 run to start the second quarter and gave the Coyotes a double-digit lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Leathernecks were 3-of-11 from the field in the second quarter. Larkins was 2-of-5 and made all four of her free throws.

USD won the third quarter 16-11 despite no Coyote totaling more than three points. More sharing was done in the fourth. Allison Peplowski got four of her six points in the fourth and finished 3-of-3 from the field. USD’s bench led by Larkins totaled 36 points.


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