WACO, Texas – Chloe Lamb, Hannah Sjerven and Liv Korngable are super-seniors at South Dakota who came back together hoping for a special season. They have something really sweet — and are still playing, even as a No. 10 seed in the women's NCAA Tournament.
Sjerven scored 16 points and Chloe Lamb added 15 as the Summit League champion Coyotes beat Baylor 61-47 on the No. 2 seed's home court Sunday. They are going to the Sweet 16 for the first time.
“It’s a joy, it was a great experience to play in this environment, Yes, it’s settling that there’s only 16 teams left playing in the tournament, so it’s very cool," said Korngable, who added 11 points and five assists.
“Well, it’s so special to have the young ladies that we do, and for them to come back, I think, certainly speaks volumes of what they wanted to accomplished,” coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “And they obviously knew they needed all three of them together.”
South Dakota scored the game's first 11 points and led throughout to become the second No. 10 seed to beat a No. 2 seed on Sunday, after Creighton had won 64-62 at Iowa. The eighth double-digit seeds winning on the opening weekend of the women’s tournament this year matched a record.
Queen Egbo had 13 points while two-time AP All-America forward NaLyssa Smith matched her season low with 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting for the Bears (28-7) while being constantly surrounded by defenders. Smith could be the top overall pick in the next WNBA draft.
Baylor saw the end of its streak of 12 consecutive Sweet 16 appearances. Summit League player of the year Lamb, top defensive player Sjerven and the Coyotes are headed to Wichita instead next weekend.
“It looked like we were in slow motion to start the game,” first-year Baylor coach Nicki Collen said. “I think we played them pretty even after that 11-0 start. ... They’re really, really physical. We’re pretty finessey.”
In a building where Baylor rarely loses, the Coyotes had a loud contingency of roughly 150 fans, cheerleaders and pep band members that got to celebrate with them. The fans in the seats behind their bench stood chanting “U-S-D!” in the closing seconds and celebrated with their team long after Baylor had left the court.
“I thought our kids played really hard, I thought they played fearless, and I thought they made a lot of good things happen,” Plitzuweit said. "They’ve earned this and now they have a chance to enjoy it.”
Baylor had won 66 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents since UConn won in the Ferrell Center on Jan. 13, 2014.
The Bears won their 12th consecutive Big 12 title even after losing their first two conference games with Collen, the WNBA coach who took over when three-time national champion coach Kim Mulkey left after 21 seasons last spring for LSU. But this is their earliest NCAA tourney exit since 2008.
“I think slowly and surely, the Baylor family realized that maybe I do fit in here, whatever that sounds like or looks like. I think that was hard for them too. I think change is hard,” Collen said. “I’m incredibly grateful. I’m sure they’re not real happy with me right now. That’s OK, because I’m not really happy with me right now, either. ”
South Dakota, in its 10th year of Division I eligibility, is in its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament, and fifth overall. But the Coyotes had never won a tourney game before the last few days.
The Coyotes had their 11-0 lead in less than three minutes while hitting their first four shots, including two 3-pointers by Lamb. It was Sjerven made a 3-pointer on the first shot, just like in their 75-61 victory over Mississippi when leading throughout Friday in their first-round game.
“Hannah started the game off with another 3, I think we all kind of smiled and relaxed a little bit,” Plitzuweit said.
“Just that this is fun,” Sjerven said when asked her thoughts about the fast start. “And the game of basketball is as simple as five players going at another set of five players, and not to overthink it too much and it was a fun game.”
South Dakota: The Coyotes, who have won 11 games in a row and 27 of 28 overall, played with confidence and were fearless on the road against a perennial Top 10 team. They are the second Summit League team to make the Sweet 16 (South Dakota State in 2019). Along with the three super seniors, there were two second-year freshmen in the starting lineup.
Baylor: The Bears shot a season-low 31.5% from the field (17 of 54) and were held 30 points below their season average while scoring their fewest points since December 2015. They missed seven shots and had seven turnovers before scoring their first points. They finished with 19 turnovers, leading to 22 points for South Dakota.
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