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USD women's basketball uses second-quarter run to move past North Dakota

The separation in the score came on a 14-0 Coyote run to end the first half after the teams were knotted at 34-34 with just under four minutes to go.

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VERMILLION, S.D.—South Dakota women's basketball continued its hot stretch at home and topped North Dakota 79-67 Thursday inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.

It was the Coyotes’ 14th consecutive win in the series and the 43rd consecutive home win for South Dakota against Summit League opponents dating back to January of 2017.

Grace Larkins scored a game-high 21 points to lead five South Dakota players who scored in double figures. Alexi Hempe had 14 second-quarter points on 5-of-5 shooting. Nicole Avila-Ambrosi and Carley Duffney had 12 points apiece off the Coyotes’ bench. Macy Guebert chipped in 10 points.

But more so Thursday was South Dakota’s defense, particularly regarding Summit League scoring leader and North Dakota guard Kacie Borowicz. She led the Fighting Hawks with 18 points, but needed 18 shots to get there. Borowicz was forced into five turnovers and had three shots blocked.

Goebert drew the 1-on-1 assignment against her, but Avila-Ambrosi, who had a career-high seven steals as well as two blocks, helped on entry passes on a night she went 4-of-5 from 3-point range. The seven steals are the most since Allison Arens had seven against North Dakota back in 2019. It’s a feat that’s happened now six times since 2000.

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North Dakota (9-5, 2-2 Summit) was held to its fewest point tally since late November and was outrebounded for the third time in its last 10 games. Hempe had eight rebounds and Avila-Ambrosi totaled six.

The separation in the score came on a 14-0 Coyote run to end the first half after the teams were knotted at 34-34 with just under four minutes to go. It started with a Hempe 3-pointer and her 14 points all came in a quarter in which USD outscored UND 31-13. Avila-Ambrosi had two 3-pointers in the frame and three triples in the first half.

North Dakota cut the lead to six four minutes into the second half, but drew no closer the rest of the way. Goebert answered back with a 3 and Duffney scored back-to-back buckets to quickly push the lead back to 13. South Dakota held North Dakota without a field goal until the 5:29 mark of the fourth quarter to put the game away. Avila-Ambrosi had four steals in the fourth quarter and North Dakota had two field goals.

South Dakota, one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation percentage wise, was 11-of-28 from three-point range, while North Dakota was 5-of-16 from beyond the arc.

South Dakota (8-8, 4-1) moved into second place in the Summit standings on a night where all four home teams were victorious. The Coyotes host North Dakota State at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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“Women’s athletics at South Dakota State has always been valued and supported,” SDSU women's basketball coach Aaron Johnston said. “We’re lucky to have people that invest in women’s athletics here.”