Hannah Sjerven’s free throws push USD past upset-minded Bison

South Dakota's Hannah Sjerven goes up for a shot against North Dakota State on Feb. 27 in Vermillion

Hannah Sjerven felt the contact. The South Dakota senior had just pulled in an offensive rebound in the final seconds of a tied game against North Dakota State, but considering the physical play that preceded that moment, she wasn’t necessarily expecting a foul call. To her surprise, one of the officials noticed the contact and, following a brief review, confirmed the infraction occurred before time had expired.

After missing her first try, Sjerven converted on her second to lift USD to an 82-81 victory over the Bison in Vermillion. 

“It’s probably worth more than we feel right now,” Sjerven said of the experience gained by playing a close game one week before the Summit League tournament. “Close games are fun and exciting. It’s great for our underclassmen — and for the seniors to just experience games like this again because there’s no doubt we’ll face tough competition ahead.” 

Sjerven finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and three steals, the third of which reserved USD’s 81-78 lead with 39 seconds remaining. 

Sjerven was joined in double figures by Chloe Lamb, who scored a team-high 22 points with seven rebounds and two assists, as well as Liv Korngable (12 points, seven assists and six rebounds). 

South Dakota's Maddie Krull drives to the basket against North Dakota State on Feb. 27 in Vermillion

Rounding out the leaders was freshman Maddie Krull, who continued her run of exceptional play with a career-high 20 points on 8 of 15 shooting with three rebounds and an assist. She broke a 78-all stalemate late in regulation with a free throw, then followed a charge drawn by Korngable on the other end with a layup to push USD’s lead to 81-78 with under a minute remaining.

“Maddie played really, really well. She made a lot of things happen for us,” coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “She did a fantastic job of making great decisions, getting to the rim and taking really great shots. … I thought she really did some great things for us offensively.” 

Krull’s layup proved critical to the Coyotes’ victory as out of the ensuing timeout, Heaven Hamling drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with 21 seconds left. It was a clutch shot by the NDSU guard, who finished with a game-high 30 points on 11 of 22 shooting with eight 3-pointers (12 attempts). She rounded out her line with eight rebounds, two blocks and three assists. 

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South Dakota's Chloe Lamb fires a shot against North Dakota State on Feb. 27 in Vermillion

As a team, North Dakota shot 48 percent from the field and finished 13-for-26 from 3. It logged steals on six of USD’s 13 turnovers. 

“We need to focus on our off-the-ball defense and awareness tomorrow,” Krull said. “We have to be aware of some key shooters. I think that will be huge for us, a lot of ‘help the helper’ that kind of stuff.” 

The two teams will close out the regular season Sunday afternoon in Vermillion.

Hempe out for season

Plitzuweit announced Saturday afternoon that sophomore Alexi Hempe is out for the season after re-injuring her knee at practice on Wednesday. Hempe was sidelined through most of last season recovering from an injury to the same knee she suffered during the final tournament of her high school career, and was working her way into a more prominent role off the bench in 2020-21. 

“It’s really devastating news,” Plitzuweit said of Hempe, who posted 19 points and 10 rebounds last weekend vs. Oral Roberts. “Your heart just breaks for the young lady after battling back to have to go through and battle back again. It’s just a really, really tough situation for that young lady and for us, too. But we have to have other players make things happen and today we were fortunate enough to have that.” 

Plitzuweit said replacing Hempe in the rotation will be challenging as the 5-foot-11 forward can hold her own in the post, but is also capable of stepping out and stretching the floor from the perimeter. 

“Alexi can play that 1-4 spot, so figuring that out again is something we have to really work through,” Plitzuweit continued.

Macy Guebert logged 18 minutes off the bench Saturday, finishing with four points (all on free throws), two rebounds and a steal. 

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