VERMILLION — It’s there.

The South Dakota women’s basketball team knows it, according to junior guard Chloe Lamb.

The proverbial ‘target on their back.’

It comes with the territory when you’ve got a national ranking next to your name and an undefeated conference record.

“We know that everyone is going to give us their best shot when we come play them, so just being aware of that,” Lamb said.

With that awareness in hand, the Coyotes took care of business again Thursday night.

No. 16/21 ranked South Dakota surged past Western Illinois 88-51 at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center to improve to 12-0 in the Summit League.

More than just that, the Coyotes moved to 23-2 on the season — and in the process, solidified its top spot in the conference after South Dakota State lost to Denver minutes earlier.

There’s undoubtedly a certain pressure that comes with being nationally-ranked, but the Coyotes realize they can’t have a down night, according to Lamb.

“Knowing we can’t slack off with anything; we have to bring our ‘A’ game every time, that’s important for us,” she said.

What’s enabled USD to keep things rolling is that the players understand that it’s all about their continued development, according to head coach Dawn Plitzuweit.

In other words, the Coyotes have stayed focus on the task at hand.

“They’ve kept away from the noise of it all and really continued to focus on our journey,” Plitzuweit added.

There was evidentiary proof Thursday night, too, she said — based on offensive and defensive adjustments.

Thankfully for the Coyotes, their defense was sharp from the start, because the offense needed some time to get rolling.

Western Illinois was held to 31 percent in the first quarter and 30 percent in the first half.

By that point, the margin was 37-28, and the Coyotes had still not really find their rhythm.

“Western is a team that obviously is very able to do that,” Lamb said.

What the Coyotes had to do, she added, was simple: Focus.

South Dakota shot 60 percent in the third quarter and pushed the lead out to 64-41 heading into the fourth.

The adjustments that the Coyotes were able to make in the midst of that second-half surge proved, according to Plituzweit, that they’re able to handlle pressure.

“Seeing it happen continually throughout the game and making adjustments is really important for us to really focus on, to be able to play to the best of our ability,” she said.

Junior Hannah Sjerven recorded her third double-double of the season for USD with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while four other teammates also reached double figures.

Senior Taylor Frederick had 13 points and six rebounds off the bench, while senior Ciara Duffy had 11 points, five rebound and seven assists, Lamb scored 11 points, and senior Madison McKeever added 10 points.

Up next for USD is a quick turnaround for a Saturday afternoon game at Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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WESTERN ILLINOIS (13-12, 7-5)

Evan Zars 4-9 0-0 8; Danni Nichols 3-7 1-2 8; Olivia Kaufmann 2-8 1-4 4; Grace Gilmore 2-8 3-4 7; Sam Pryor 0-7 0-0 0; Alissa Dins 0-1 0-0 0; Elizabeth Lutz 5-11 3-6 18; Jinda Guidinger 0-3 3-6 3; Mackenzie Rogers 0-1 0-0 0; Payton Courier 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16-55 11-22 51.

SOUTH DAKOTA (23-2, 12-0)

Hannah Sjerven 8-10 2-4 18; Monica Arens 3-8 1-1 8; Chloe Lamb 4-10 0-0 11; Madison McKeever 4-6 0-0 10; Ciara Duffy 4-10 3-4 11; Liv Korngable 2-7 1-2 6; Taylor Frederick 5-10 3-4 13; Jeniah Ugofsky 0-4 1-2 1; Claudia Kunzer 1-2 0-0 2; Macy Guebert 2-3 0-0 6; Regan Sankey 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS 34-71 11-17 88.

WESTERN ILLINOIS 12 16 13 10 — 51

SOUTH DAKOTA 22 15 27 24 — 88

Three-Pointers — USD 9-25 (Lamb 3-6, McKeever 2-3, Guebert 2-3, Arens 1-4, Korngable 1-4, Frederick 0-1, Kunzer 0-1, Duffy 0-3), WIU 8-32 (Lutz 5-10, Kaufmann 2-6, Nichols 1-4, Dins 0-1, Guidinger 0-1, Zars 0-2, Gilmore 0-2, Pryor 0-6). Total Rebounds — USD 50 (Sjerven 11), WIU 30 (three with 6). Assists — USD 21 (Duffy 7), WIU 9 (Kaufmann 5). Turnovers — WIU 19, USD 12. Personal Fouls — USD 23, WIU 16. Fouled Out — None. Attendance — 1888.

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