USU women end season with home loss to South Dakota in Women’s Basketball Invitational

<strong>LOGAN–</strong> Utah State women’s basketball could not overcome a 9-0 South Dakota run in the second half as well as 33 points by USD’s Nicole Seekamp, as the Aggies lost to the Coyotes, 77-69, Thursday night in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

USU ends its first season under head coach Jerry Finkbeiner with an 18-14 record, as Thursday’s loss snapped the Aggies’ 10-game home winning streak, the longest in school history. South Dakota improves to 18-15 overall and advances to play at Lamar in the second round on Sunday. The Coyotes also avenged a 70-69 loss to the Aggies on Dec. 20 in Logan earlier this season.

Aggie junior guard Jennifer Schlott netted a team-high 25 points, tallying 18 in the second half, as well as dishing out eight assists, one shy of her career-high, while senior guard Devyn Christensen tallied 16 points. Senior guard Jenna Johnson added eight points to go with 13 rebounds, two points shy of her 10th double-double of the season and 11th of her career. Johnson also had a career-high five blocked shots.

In addition to Seekamp’s game-high 33 points, which included 28 in the second half, Polly Harrington chipped in with 15 points, while Tempestt Wilson added 12 points. Alexis Yackley distributed a game-high nine assists and snared a team-high 11 rebounds, while Lisa Loeffler snared nine and Harrington pulled down eight as USD had a 50-44 rebounding edge. In the meeting on Dec. 20 between the Aggies and Coyotes, USD had a 63-26 advantage on the glass.

USU finished the night shooting 35.6 percent (26-of-73) from the field, including 20.8 percent (5-of-24) behind the three-point arc, while making 80.0 percent (12-of-15) at the free throw line.

USD netted 27-of-64 (42.2 percent) of its field goals, making 7-of-17 (41.2 percent) from three-point range, as well as 16-of-28 (57.1 percent) at the charity stripe.

The game saw six ties and seven lead changes, while USU had a 14-4 second-chance points advantage and a 14-7 bench points edge. Johnson’s five blocks were part of USU eight rejections on the night, while Christensen swiped three steals, as USU also finished with eight steals.

Both teams started cold with neither team scoring the first two minutes of the game. The Aggies reached the scoreboard first with a Haylee Thompson lay up with under 18 to play in the first half. USU eventually jumped out to a 6-2 lead before the Coyotes scored three-straight to cut the lead to 6-5. South Dakota used a 10-2 run to take a 12-8 lead with under 11 left in the half.

South Dakota took control mid-way through the second half as the Aggies missed their first nine from beyond the arc. As in the first meeting between the teams, the Coyotes controlled the boards. Utah State fought back with eight-straight points to tie the score at 22-22. A Schlott old-fashioned three-point play put USU back on top 25-22.

The Aggie run swelled to 18-0 as Utah State jumped out to a 32-24 advantage at halftime.

In the first half, Utah State was led by nine points from Christensen who was one of six different Aggies to score in the half. Schlott added seven points with Thompson scoring six. Johnson set a new career-high in blocks with five in the first half alone.

South Dakota was led by five points from both Wilson and McCloud. The Coyotes held a slight 29-17 rebounding edge in the first 20 minutes.

The Coyotes chipped away at the Aggies’ 10-point lead cutting the gap down to one point, 43-42 with under 13 minutes left in the game. South Dakota eventually tied the score at 49-49 with 9:03 remaining. A three by Seekamp put USD up 54-53 with under seven minutes left.

South Dakota jumped out to a seven point lead using the three, taking a 65-58 advantage. The Coyotes got back to back threes from Harrington and Seekamp to help take the lead.

With USD up 68-63, the Aggies got a much-needed three from Christensen to cut the lead to five, but USU couldn’t get any closer as the Coyotes netting 7-of-8 free throws in the final 1:03 to secure the win.

In addition to the school-record 10-game home winning streak, USU finished with a 10-3 home ledger, posting double-digit home wins for the third-straight season.

The Aggies say good-bye to dedicated careers of their seniors, Johnson, Christensen and guard Pualei Furtado. They finished as the winningest senior class in school history, ending with a 70-56 ledger.

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