The USD men’s basketball team capped off its regular season with an 80-64 victory over rival South Dakota State Saturday in the DakotaDome.
The win gives the Coyote men their first winning record in four years and also marks the first time the Coyotes have beaten the Jackrabbits in two years.
“Great game. Great environment,” USD head men’s basketball coach Craig Smith said. “When you have a rivalry game at home and there’s all the ‘Yote fans in the crowd, it’s just amazing to see how much energy it brings to your team.”
Although the Coyotes won their game, they didn’t start the game the way they would have liked. SDSU was able to build a nine-point lead at the first media timeout — which was a flashback to a game earlier this year in Brookings, the team said.
“Coach Hansen told us that these guys are going to make some shots,” senior guard Brandon Bos said. “He told us not to panic and to stick to our game plan. We wanted to make them shoot the shots we wanted them to, and we did exactly that, and they started to miss their shots.”
After that first media timeout, the Coyotes clawed their way back to tie the game up about halfway through the first half. A 12 to 3 run by USD at the end of the half gave the Coyotes the 44-34 lead at halftime.
In the second half, SDSU was able to cut the lead down to 6 points, but Bos’ 3-pointer at the six minute mark ended a chance for the Jackrabbits to make a comeback.
Despite a 16 point lead, Bos said a defensive effort made the difference in the game’s outcome. SDSU shot 46 percent from the field as a team and were held to 38 percent shooting against USD.
“It’s disappointing, but give USD credit — they were prepared for us,” SDSU men’s head basketball Coach Scott Nagy said. “Our defense was awful and for us bad defense leads to terrible offense. They played with way more energy on both ends and executed way better than we did.”
The Coyotes said practices leading up to the game helped them prepare for the in-state rivals.
“We had a couple of great practices on Thursday and Friday,” senior guard Tyler Larson said. “We came in with great energy, watched film and talked about what went wrong and how we can fix it.”
Smith agreed with Larson.
“Thursday and Friday were probably two of the best practices we have had all year,” he said. “It’s no accident that the results we saw today were because of our energy and focus in practice the past couple days.”
It was also senior day for the Coyotes and the final home game for USD players Larson, Bos and James Hunter. Larson finished the game with 8 points and four rebounds. Bos added 12 points and had four assists, and Hunter contributed 8 points in the win.
Although it was senior day, it was two juniors who led the way for USD. Guard Casey Kasperbauer finished with 17 points including 11 in the first half — which sparked the Coyote comeback. Fellow junior Tre Burnette led the Coyotes with 19 points and 13 rebounds in the win.
For SDSU, senior forward Cody Larson led all scorers with 25 points and brought down 12 boards in the loss. Guard Jake Bittle added 12 points and first-year Reed Rellinghuisen scored 9.
Both teams will have practice this week before they head to Sioux Falls for the Summit League Conference Tournament which begins the week of March 7. SDSU will be the top overall seed, and the Coyotes’ standing depends on the results of other games held today.
(Photo: Senior guard Brandon Bos celebrates among fans in Saturday’s win against SDSU in the DakotaDome. Austin Ashlock / The Volante)