VERMILLION — Lisa Loeffler smiled when she was asked about returning to the DakotaDome.
“We need to be home,” said the junior post, whose University of South Dakota women’s basketball team returns to Vermillion after three road losses to open the Summit League schedule.
Western Illinois visits the DakotaDome tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. and Omaha comes to town Saturday at 2 p.m.
The consistent theme among the three losses for USD (9-9, 0-3)?
“Our defense,” Loeffler said before Tuesday’s practice. “We just let them run whatever they wanted, and that’s what we’ve been working on in practice.”
In losing at Denver, IUPUI and Fort Wayne, the Coyotes allowed an average of 89 points — ranking them last in the conference.
And so, as USD returned home for practice this week, the emphasis has naturally been on the defensive end, Loeffler said.
“We have a tendency to stand up and now box out, so we’ve been working on staying in our stance the whole time,” she said.
More than just defense, the Coyotes have also had to battle through a lingering ankle injury to leading scorer Nicole Seekamp (14.1 ppg). She scored 13 points in the Denver loss, was held scoreless at IUPUI and didn’t play in Fort Wayne.
“We’ve had to definitely mix in some new guards in that role, and just get everybody on the same page,” Loeffler said.
Senior Polly Harrington has provided the Coyotes with a lift, averaging 18.3 points in league play, followed by junior Raeshel Contreras with 14.7 points.
Also helping to overcome the loss of Seekamp (who could be out for a few more weeks) is sophomore Kelly Stewart. The 6-foot wing returned to the court at Denver on Jan. 16, marking her first action since March 19, 2012 — she missed all of last season with a foot injury.
“It’s nice having her back, especially in practice where she’s not just watching,” Loeffler said. “We just want to help her back as much as we can.
“For being out so long, she’s doing pretty well.”
Ultimately, an argument could be made that who takes the court isn’t nearly as important as being back home.
“It’s hard playing on the road and not having that fan support,” Loeffler said. “This is your home court, we’re on here every day, we play better here.”