The Coyotes took down Baylor 61-47 on its home floor for the second 10-seed upset of a 2-seed of the day. The Bears had made the Sweet 16 12 consecutive times prior to this loss, snapping the fourth-longest such streak in NCAA tournament history.
After a strong surge at the end of the regular season and in the Big 12 tournament, where her team fell in the championship game to Texas, Baylor's Nicki Collen concludes her first season at the helm in Waco, Texas, with a 28-7 record. Entering the NCAA tournament, the Bears had won 17 of their previous 19 games.
Baylor star NaLyssa Smith, an expected top-two WNBA draft pick next month, had 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting in the final game of her collegiate career.
The Bears' early exit marks the first time since 2016 that two or more top-two seeds lost in the first two rounds of the tournament. That year, Maryland and Arizona State, both 2-seeds, lost in the second round. It is also the first time since 2018 that two double-digit seeds made the Sweet 16 (Central Michigan and Buffalo did so that year).
With the win, South Dakota advances to the program's first Sweet 16 in school history. It is just the second time a program from the Summit League has made it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, with South Dakota State previously making the Sweet 16 in 2019 where it ultimately fell to Oregon.
South Dakota, which upset 7-seed Ole Miss in the first round of the tournament to clinch a matchup with the Bears, struck first with a 3 by Hannah Sjerven 32 seconds in and led the rest of the way. The Coyotes bounced out to an 11-0 run and held Baylor scoreless for the first 7:04 of the game in what South Dakota coach Dawn Plitzuweit called a "fearless" performance from her squad.
"Just doing everything at a very high, 100% level, not doing anything half-heartedly," guard Liv Korngable said of the effort. "Pulling from coaches and players and each other, that's a big, big part of our fearlessness and confidence."
The Coyotes' trio of "super seniors" -- Korngable, Sjerven and Chloe Lamb -- returned to Vermillion with their sights set on achieving something unprecedented for the program, which moved up from Division II to Division I competition in 2008-09. But the likelihood of that wasn't necessarily apparent early on, with South Dakota going 1-4 against Power 5 teams in nonconference play.
"I just kept thinking, 'We've just got to kind of hang tight,'" Plitzuweit said. "Been thinking about it a lot the last couple days with the draw that we have, two Power 5s ... to now be able to see, 'OK, maybe it didn't come right away, but now we have a chance to do something really special.'"
The super seniors delivered, combining for just under 70% of South Dakota's points against the Bears.
Baylor pulled within four late in the second quarter before allowing a 9-2 run to close the half and then mostly trailed by double figures after that, managing to cut the deficit to eight at best.
Baylor will look to move forward next season without Smith, Jordan Lewis and potentially Queen Egbo as Collen enters year two of the head job after succeeding three-time national championship coach Kim Mulkey when she left for LSU.
"All coaches say that you've just got to trust the process," Collen said. "But change is hard. Change is really, really hard. For everyone. I've learned that I'm tougher than I would've ever thought. That I'm more resilient. I think I can coach with anybody in the country. I've got an unbelievable staff."
Collen had previously spoken following Baylor's loss to Texas in the Big 12 tournament title game about the difficulties of assuming the job and not wanting to let her team down.
"I think slowly and surely the Baylor family realized that maybe I do fit in here," Collen said. "Whatever that sounds like or looks like, and I think that was hard for them, too. I think change is hard, and so I'm incredibly grateful. I'm sure they're not happy with me right now. That's OK, because I'm not real happy with me right now either.
"I know we're going to be okay, but right now it just hurts to not be planning a trip to Wichita."