Eighth-seeded South Dakota tips off the 2019 NCAA Tournament with ninth-seeded Clemson at 6 p.m. Friday inside Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss.
South Dakota makes its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014 with four years in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament between the two appearances. Clemson makes its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002, one of eight ACC teams to make the field. The Coyotes are one of four mid-majors to make the field as an at-large bid. The game will be broadcast by ESPN2 with play-by-play from Paul Sunderland and color commentary by Steffi Sorenson.
South Dakota (28-5, 14-2 Summit League) makes its ninth-straight postseason appearance, making the NCAA Division I Tournament for the second time in school history (2014). South Dakota becomes the first Summit League team, by its current name, to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The 2019 season has seen unprecedented success for the program under two-time Summit League Coach of the Year Dawn Plitzuweit. The Coyotes beat a ranked opponent, No. 23 Iowa State, for the first time in program history in November. Since that was so much fun, the Yotes went on the road to do it again at No. 22 Missouri in December. The Coyotes made their own way into the rankings for the first time in history on Feb. 11. South Dakota was ranked for two weeks in the AP Top 25 and five-straight weeks in the USA Today Poll.
The Coyotes are led by first-team all-Summit League guards Allison Arens and Ciara Duffy. Arens averaged 20 points and seven rebounds during the Summit League Tournament, tying her season high of 26 points in the championship game. Duffy has led the Coyotes in scoring for nearly half the games this season, averaging nearly 15 points per game on the year. Sophomores Chloe Lamb and Hannah Sjerven also averaged double-figures during Summit League play en route to being named honorable mention.
Clemson (19-12, 9-7 ACC) enters the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002 thanks to a turnaround under national coach of the year semifinalist, and ACC Coach of the Year, Amanda Butler. The turnaround comes in the first season under Butler who inherited an 11-18 squad that went 1-15 in ACC action last season. In fact, Clemson won more ACC games this season (nine) than the last five seasons combined (eight).
Junior Kobi Thornton was named second-team All-ACC after averaging 14.6 points and securing 7.3 rebounds per game, both team highs for the Tigers. Clemson is averaging nearly 20 points more per game than a season ago (50.5 to 69.1), paced by four Tigers in double-digit scoring. On the defensive end of the floor, the Tigers rank 10th in the nation with 356 steals (11.5 per game) and 14th by forcing 20.9 turnovers per game. Senior Danielle Edwards and graduate student Simone Westbrook were each tabbed to the All-ACC Defensive team. The duo rank in the top three in the ACC in steals per game and top-35 nationally.
South Dakota and Clemson meet for the first time in program history.