VERMILLION — No lead is truly safe against Western Illinois.

Not against an up-tempo, explosive and potent offense that averages 83 points a game and was coming off consecutive games of 118 and 97 points.

The South Dakota women’s basketball team found that out Thursday night.

A 21-point lead for the Coyotes in the third quarter was sliced all the way down to three in the fourth quarter, but USD responded to capture a 92-81 Summit League victory over the defending champs at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.

It was the 12th straight win for the Coyotes (18-5, 9-0), who survived a team certainly capable of erasing any deficit.

“It definitely makes us a little nervous,” said USD senior Jasmine Trimboli, who was one of five Coyotes in double figures.

“They’re a team that can easily make quick points whenever in the game.”

The fourth quarter was proof of that.

South Dakota built a 50-29 cushion at the 7:21 mark of the third quarter and the margin again reached 21 at the 4:07 mark. The Leathernecks, though, got to within 62-53 heading into the fourth quarter.

A jumper by Taylor Higginbotham brought Western Illinois to within 73-70 with 6:29 remaining, but the Coyotes responded with eight straight to take control.

Put another way, USD survived a scare.

“They made a great comeback, and I think we showed a lot of toughness in the way we buckled down on defense and got stops at the right time,” said junior Jaycee Bradley, who scored 21 points.

Western Illinois, which had made 18 and 19 three-pointers in its previous two games, caught fire late and finished 14-of-36 from deep Thursday.

“Toward the end they got a little hot on us and we needed to adjust quicker to what they were doing,” USD junior Allison Arens said.

Higginbotham scored a game-high 28 points, while standout point guard Emily Clemens added 21 points.

“We didn’t really hold them down in this game; they scored 81, but I thought our kids found a way to pull it out,” USD coach Dawn Plitzuweit said.

12 In A Row

On Dec. 2, USD suffered a 61-64 loss at home to Tulsa — the only non-conference loss for the Coyotes at their year-old home arena.

Since then, they’ve reeled off 12 straight victories and sit atop the Summit League standings at 9-0 with five games remaining.

If you were to ask the players, though, they’d tell you they’re not worried about the win streak.

“Honestly, we just take it one day at a time; one practice at a time,” Bradley said.

“Our goal every single day is to get better and be better than we were yesterday.”

The Coyotes stay home to host North Dakota State on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Allison Arens’ Impact

South Dakota scored 92 points Thursday night despite leading scorer Allison Arens making 3-of-6 shots for eight points.

Arens, though, impacted the game in plenty of other ways.

The Crofton (Nebraska) grad added seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a career-high six blocks.

“I don’t know if she’s ever had six blocks, but she played really well defensively,” Plitzuweit said.

“She didn’t lead us in scoring, but man, she played a great basketball game.”

Arens is one of many versatile players for the Coyotes who will do whatever they can to help the team win, the coach added. For example, Trimboli added four rebounds and four assists to her 17 points, and sophomore Madison McKeever added four rebounds, four assists and four steals to her 14 points.

“It’s a very selfless group that we have,” Plitzuweit said. “They want to do whatever it takes to be successful. Whatever that means.”

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WESTERN ILLINOIS (16-7, 6-3)

Olivia Braun 2-10 2-3 7; Emily Clemens 8-16 1-2 21; Morgan Blumer 5-13 2-4 13; Michelle Farrow 1-2 0-0 2; Taylor Higginbotham 10-19 2-3 28; Olivia Kauffmann 3-4 0-0 8; Grace Gilmore 1-1 0-0 2; Krishna Merriman 0-1 0-0 0; Sam Pryor 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS 30-67 7-12 81.

SOUTH DAKOTA (18-5, 9-0)

Kate Liveringhouse 7-10 0-1 15; Allison Arens 3-6 0-0 8; Jaycee Bradley 8-14 2-2 21; Madison McKeever 4-10 3-4 14; Ciara Duffy 5-13 0-0 13; Liv Korngable 0-0 0-0 0; Jasmine Trimboli 7-8 2-2 17; Monica Arens 1-2 0-0 2; Taylor Frederick 0-0 0-0 0; Chloe Lamb 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS 36-64 7-9 92.

WESTERN ILLINOIS 14 27 53 81

SOUTH DAKOTA 19 42 62 92

Three-Pointers — WIU 14-36 (Higginbotham 6-10, Clemens 4-9, Kaufmann 2-2, Braun 1-6, Blumer 1-8, Farrow 0-1), USD 13-26 (Duffy 3-6, McKeever 3-7, Bradley 3-8, A. Arens 2-2, Liveringhouse 1-1, Trimboli 1-2). Assists — USD 21 (A. Arens 6), WIU 13 (Clemens 4). Total Rebounds — USD 35 (A. Arens 7, Duffy 7), WIU 32 (Higginbotham 8). Turnovers — USD 13, WIU 11. Personal Fouls — USD 14, WIU 13. Fouled Out — None. Attendance — 2247.

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