The Maneater

Comeback attempt not enough as Missouri falls at home to South Dakota

The Tigers had three players in double figures, but it wasn’t enough to get past the surging Coyotes.

Designed by Corey Hadfield

Winter break can seem like a dream for college basketball players and coaches. With no class for a month, teams are free to focus on practices and games without having to cope with the demanding student-athlete schedule.

For the Missouri women, however, that dream began more like a nightmare with a home loss to the University of South Dakota on Saturday.

In front of a season-high crowd of 4,509 at Mizzou Arena, the No. 22 Tigers (8-3) fell to the Coyotes (10-1) 74-61. The loss ended Missouri’s five-game win streak and was just its second non-conference home loss since 2011.

It was never going to be easy. South Dakota has established itself as one of the top mid-major programs in the country this season, and it already picked off one top-25 team last month when it bested then-No. 22 Iowa State. This just may be the biggest win in the history of the Coyote program, which only began playing at the Division I level in 2008.

The Tigers started strong, ending the first quarter up 17-12 after leading by as much as 10. Junior guard Amber Smith led the way with 5 points, but was sidelined for the second quarter after picking up two personal fouls.

With Smith riding the bench, South Dakota won the second quarter by 9 points, taking a 32-28 halftime lead. The Coyotes shot 53 percent from the field in the quarter.

Missouri fell further behind in the third quarter as the Coyotes’ defense forced the Tigers into low-percentage shots. South Dakota also took advantage of takeaways throughout the game, scoring 15 points off of Missouri’s 13 turnovers.

The Tigers wouldn’t go down without a fight. A 10-0 run cut the deficit to 61-58 and ignited the home crowd in the fourth quarter. Senior Sophie Cunningham came alive, scoring 14 points and collecting nine rebounds in the second half alone on her way to a double double.

The hill proved too tall for the Tigers to climb, however, as the Coyotes finished the game on an 11-0 run to solidify the 74-61 final score. South Dakota junior Ciara Duffy, who led all scorers with 20 points, scored 15 of those 20 in the second half.

The victory was the eighth in a row for the Coyotes, who appear poised to break into the AP poll while the Tigers seem likely to drop out.

Missouri will remain at home and host Texas State University on Monday at 7 p.m. CST.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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