Oregon (24-10) at South Dakota (30-6) – This is the first meeting between these programs. Oregon entered the WNIT on a bit of a downbeat, still dealing with the loss of senior Jillian Alleyne. She tore an ACL during practice two games before the Pac-12 tournament, and the Ducks had to press on without her 19 points and 13.6 rebounds per game – in fact, she’s one of just 10 players in women’s D-I history to top 2,000 points and 1,500 rebounds in her career.
Oregon’s primary coping mechanism has been torrid shooting from long range. In front of 9,055 fans at UTEP in the quarterfinals, Oregon came back from an 18-point deficit to secure a 71-67 victory, going 8-of-14 from the 3-point line, and has shot 53 percent (44-of-83) from there in the four WNIT victories. On the season, Oregon leads the nation in 3-point percentage at 42.2 percent.
The Ducks are one victory away from matching the program’s high-water mark of 25 wins. They are looking for their third WNIT title, having claimed the championship in 1989 and 2002, and are 18-4 all-time in the event. The team is also thriving behind the play of freshman point guard Maite Cazorla, a native of the Canary Islands, who averages nearly six assists per game.
South Dakota is wisely leaning on the skills of senior guard Nicole Seekamp, a native Australian and the Summit League player of the year. Through four WNIT games, she’s averaging about 17 points and five rebounds per contest, to go with a nearly 6-to-1 ratio in assists to turnovers.
The Coyotes are an impressive 30-1 at home over the past two seasons and have been building a loyal following of fans at the DakotaDome, site of Wednesday’s semifinal.
“It’s been really refreshing for us to be in a situation in this tournament to be able to face several new opponents we’re unfamiliar with,” said South Dakota head coach Amy Williams. “It’s fun to be coming up with some new game plans and new strategies.
“(The Ducks) are tremendous shooters and they have some really good size inside. They present a lot of problems. It’s going to take a great defensive effort and great focus, but I feel like our team has rose to every challenge we’ve thrown at them.”