As the crowd began to flood into the DakotaDome Thursday night, it became apparent that the long lost rivalry between the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University had resurged on the campus of USD.
Not long after tip-off, it was clear the Coyote team the Jackrabbits saw during their last meeting on Jan. 12 at Frost Arena was not the same team that hit the court Thursday night.
Behind a standout shooting performance by senior guard Louie Krogman, whose 22 points and eight assists led the team, the Coyotes were able to upset SDSU 72-68.
Head coach Dave Boots said Thursday night’s win was an important one for not only the school, but also his players.
“Tonight’s win was a big win for our guys, and it was a hard win,” Boots said. “We had to fight it out in the end, but I am just proud of our guys and how they played. They were good defensively, they rebounded and were able to score. They hung in there and played with toughness and stuck together. I couldn’t say enough about these guys”
It didn’t take long for the Coyotes to assert their dominance over the Jackrabbits, taking a demanding 23-6 lead with 10:22 remaining in the half.
Senior forward Ricardo Andreotti said getting out to an early lead gave the team the momentum needed to hold on for a win.
“Just getting that strong start helped us stay in the game,” Andreotti said. “Like last time when they came out strong and stuck with it, we stuck with it tonight and sent the message that we were not going to give up.”
Leading 34-24 at halftime, the Coyotes’ comfortable lead slowly began to diminish over the course of the second half.
With just 23 seconds remaining in the game the Coyotes led by just two after SDSU’s Griffan Callahan’s three-pointer silenced the energetic USD crowd.
However, free throws from sophomores Steve Tecker and Trevor Gruis took away any hopes of an SDSU comeback, giving the Coyotes their first victory against their rivals since 2004.
Krogman said the team knew they were capable to competing with the Jackrabbits Thursday night.
“We knew that we were a better team than we were at Frost Arena in Janurary,” Krogman said. “It eventually came down to who would play better tonight, and it’s satisfying to know that we can compete. Now we have won two games in a row and are playing the right way.”
Senior Charlie Westbrook added 18 points to the Coyote effort along with two blocks and steal. Tecker also had 11 points.
Attributing the USD’s successes was their consistency shooting the ball, more specifically in the second half. The Coyotes shot over 55 percent from the field in the game, while shooting over 68 percent during the second half.
The Coyotes were able to hold down the Jackrabbit’s typically high field goal percentage. SDSU shot just 35 percent from the field in the game, while going 0-for-8 from behind the arch in the first half.
After Thursday night’s win, the Coyotes will look to take down another conference rival from the north when North Dakota State arrives on the campus of USD on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.