The Volante’s Alanna Schmeichel contributed to this article.
The University of South Dakota men’s basketball team picked up its first Summit League Conference Tournament victory Saturday, defeating Fort Wayne 82-73, and clinching themselves a rivalry game Monday night against South Dakota State.
“What a great day. What a great game,” USD head coach Craig Smith said. “What a great effort by the ‘Yotes. Obviously we came out on fire in the first half… When we play like the (San Antonio) Spurs, we’re hard to beat.”
The Coyotes came out firing in the first half, building a 38-17 lead and never looked back.
Senior guard Brandon Bos was perfect in the first half, going 6-6 from the field for 19 points. He would end with a career high, but he wants more.
“(The) last two years, we obviously haven’t been this successful in the tournament,” Bos said. “We still have a long way to go. We still have a great challenge facing us tomorrow night.”
It was Bos’ night, but it was also the rest of the team’s night for personal achievements.
Junior guard Trey Norris was a spark-plug for the Coyotes in the first half. He posted five assists, and twice fed senior center James Hunter for easy lay-ins.
Hunter had one of his biggest games as well. The senior transfer showed his value to the Coyotes, guarding Fort Wayne’s Steve Forbes and ending the night with 16 points on 8-11 shooting.
“Forbes missed four shots in two games (against USD), and we were bringing doubles to him. We were doing about everything you could,” Smith said. “James has really improved, particularly defensively. He was outstanding.”
Still, the Mastodons would not hand the game to the Coyotes. Despite a 20-point deficit in the first half, the ‘Dons fought back to make it a single-digit game for much of the second half.
When IPFW junior Max Landis started catching fire from the three-point line, it looked like the lead might slip away from USD.
Eventually, a few shots didn’t fall for the Mastodons and the Coyotes converted enough free throws to walk away winners.
“We know how dangerous they can be,” junior guard Casey Kasperbauer said. “We were up like 12 or 14 and there was this really good sense of urgency by our team. They cut it a little bit closer than we wanted them to, but at the end of the day, that 21-point cushion that we built at the break ended up being really huge for us.”
Bos and Kasperbauer carried the Coyotes at the free throw line late in the game. The duo combined 15-16 from the line.
IPFW was led by four scorers in double figures. Senior Joe Edwards scored 16 points and cashed his 1,000 point. However, it was to no avail.
Now, tomorrow night will be a dream come true, Bos said.
“(SDSU) has been really successful,” Bos said. “After we lost at their place, Coach said we’d see these guys two more times… They’re a great team. We played them really well at our place, and I know they’re going to be ready to go tomorrow.”
Monday’s matchup is the first time both teams have gone head-to-head in the Summit League Tournament, and the teams split contests in the regular season.
The new location of the Summit League Tournament in the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center has a capacity of around 12,000. All sections of seating will be open “by demand,” tournament officials said.
The SDSU-USD contest will tip off at 6 p.m. in Sioux Falls.
(Photo: University of South Dakota senior guard Brandon Bos pushes past a Fort Wayne defender during the Coyotes 82-73 victory to advance to the 2015 Summit League Championships at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls. Bos scored a career-high 29 points Saturday. Austin Ashlock / The Volante)