Associated Press
Saturday, March 22, 2014

AMES, Iowa (AP) - Facing mighty Stanford in a first-round NCAA tournament game is a tall order for any women’s team, not to mention one making its first appearance in the event.

South Dakota saw it as an opportunity - and ran with it.

Second-seeded Stanford prevailed as expected, winning 81-62 Saturday night as Chiney Ogwumike put up 23 points to become the Pac-12’s career scoring leader.

But 15th-seeded South Dakota (19-14), from the lightly regarded Summit League, played aggressively throughout and never backed down.

“That’s what we kind of pride ourselves on, playing hard every game,” South Dakota star Nicole Seekamp said. “We’ve just got so many people who can contribute. We do that every game.”

Seekamp, a 5-foot-10 junior from Renmark, South Australia, made the biggest contribution of all, scoring 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting, grabbing five rebounds and making a couple of steals.

She drove the ball fearlessly to the basket against the taller, longer Stanford players and pulled up for jumpers when those drives were cut off.

“We could not stop Number 35,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said, referring to Seekamp’s jersey number.

With Seekamp setting the tone, South Dakota made four of its first five shots in taking an 8-5 lead less than 3 minutes into the game. Seekamp had a steal and bucket in that early surge and Polly Harrington, the Coyotes’ lone senior, scored twice.

“It’s always great to be up on a big team,” Seekamp said. “I guess that shows we can play with bigger teams. We just have to play like that the whole game rather than have setbacks.”

Many of those setbacks involved giving up offensive rebounds — Stanford had 16 — and eventually, the taller, more talented Cardinal (30-3) took control.

South Dakota led for the last time at 13-12 on Seekamp’s three-point play. Ogwumike then hit a go-ahead jumper to start a 19-4 spurt that put the Cardinal up 31-17.

A 17-5 run spanning the halves made it 48-27, and the Cardinal led by as many as 25.

“We didn’t box out a couple of times and we paid for it,” Harrington said. “I think that’s where they got a lot of their points from. Just early work and boxing out rebounding would have helped us a lot more.”

Bonnie Samuelson scored 18 points and matched her career high with six 3-pointers for the Cardinal. Lili Thompson added 11 points, and Amber Orrange had 10 points and nine assists.

The Cardinal lost forward Mikaela Ruef with 5 minutes left in the first half after she hit the back of her head on the court during a scrum for a loose ball.

Stanford is in the tournament for the 27th straight year and trying to reach the Final Four for the sixth time in seven seasons. South Dakota, which started its transition from Division II to I in 2007, was in the tournament in its second year of eligibility after winning the Summit League tournament.

The Coyotes couldn’t overcome the physical mismatches. Stanford outscored the Coyotes 46-14 in the lane and held a 31-13 advantage in bench scoring.

Ogwumike, the Pac-12 player of the year, passed former Stanford great Candice Wiggins as the conference’s all-time scoring leader. Ogwumike now has 2,652 points.

Harrington, who played in the 2011 tournament for Louisville, scored nine points for the Coyotes before fouling out with 7:36 left. Coyotes fans chanted “Polly, Polly” as she went to the bench.

“I love our fans,” Harrington said. “They’ve been there through thick and thin. It was just a great crowd and I appreciate it.”

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