After the Coyote women christened the Sanford Coyote Sports Center with a win over Stephen F. Austin, the Coyote men followed suit defeating Bowling Green 78-72.
For USD, to get a win in their new home felt like it was a long time coming.
“The guys have been talking about it since they’ve been here and since they’ve committed, like we’ve got to get this done right and build a tremendous home court advantage at the SCSC,” said Coyote head coach Craig Smith.
The new building is a point of pride for the Coyotes and they wanted to start off strong in the SCSC.
“People have been talking about it a long time. You know we just wanted to start everything off on a right note and everything like that by getting a win,” said junior guard Carlton Hurst. “New year, we just wanted to come out with a bang and get our season going in the right direction.”
Two days after they opened their season with a 79-74 win over Drake, the Coyotes returned home to open the SCSC. The first half was back and forth before the Coyotes found some slight separation thanks to five straight points from junior guard Trey Dickerson. USD entered halftime with a 33-27 lead over the Falcons.
“I thought the first 12 minutes they were the aggressor. I thought we played soft, I thought we played tentative, we weren’t aggressive defensively I thought they got every loose ball. Felt like we settled for a lot of jumpers instead of getting to the rim,” Smith said. “We had a little come to me Jesus meeting at about the eight minute timeout or just before and got after them and the guys really responded and we start playing aggressive and got downhill and started playing with physicality.”
The Coyotes came out strong in the second half, jumping out to a 42-29 lead. From there Bowling Green gained ground, as the Falcons found their rhythm and took the lead with around eight minutes to play.
“They were hitting shots. We came down and we ran our sets and we ran them really well and everything like that, they just came back, they weren’t going anywhere,” Hurst said. “We knew we were in for a hard fought game.”
Bowling Green would maintain the lead until two tough shots from sophomore guard Matt Mooney put the Coyotes back in control with two minutes remaining. From there clutch free throws from freshman guard Triston Simpson and good rebounding would seal the game for the Coyotes as they went on to win 78-72.
“Well I think I’m going to need to check what my life insurance policy’s like with this team and I mean that affectionately,” Smith said. “We could have a lot of games like this is what I’m saying.”
The Coyotes struggled down the stretch and nearly let the game slip away, but they showed poise to battle back and secure the win.
“We were teetering, there’s no doubt,” Smith said. “If you look at a 15-round fight we were in about round 12 and pretty wobbly, but we sure finished with a flourish and thought we showed tremendous poise and confidence.”
One thing that helped the Coyotes down the stretch was the presence of a strong home crowd.
“To me one thing I really noticed, especially just being able to just go through the arena and look at everything, every seat you feel like you’re there,” said sophomore forward Trey Burch-Manning. “Some arenas you feel like, ‘Man I’m in the nose-bleeds, like I can barley see these guys.’ Everyone has a good seat and you can really feel the energy on the court, everyone yelling and there’s just no place like it.”
Burch-Manning was the Coyotes’ leading scorer, rebounder and assist man with 14 points, 11 boards and three assists. Senior forward Tyler Flack scored 12 and was big for USD on the defensive end with six blocks. Hurst notched 13 points and pulled down five rebounds, he was a factor for USD late coming up with a key block and rebound to help lock up a Coyote win.
Burch-Manning’s efforts earned him Summit League Player of the Week for his performance against Bowling Green, along with his 24 point, 11 rebound outing against Drake.
“It was a great victory against a good MAC team. Lot of ebbs and flows and we’re going to have that I think a lot this year,” Smith said. “Every time you look to the left done the bench it’s like, OK, what freshman do we put in, what sophomore do we put in and ups and downs.”
That bench is sure to be a go to for the Coyotes this season. With 10 new players suiting up for USD, there will definitely be some experimenting with the lineup.
“I think we’re really talented, but I think honestly the sky’s the limit for us. We’re still all new, 10 new guys, I think we’re still developing as we go,” Burch-Manning said. “We kind of know what our identity is, but it’s unraveling more. We’re just developing and trying to get better every day.”
The Coyotes are now 2-0 on the season and will play again on Wednesday night when they take on Presentation College in the SCSC at 7 p.m. USD follows up Presentation with another game in the SCSC on Thursday against Doane University at 7 p.m. That is the opening game of the Gulf Coast Showcase, the following games take place in Estero, Florida.
“We have a really balanced team, a pretty deep bench as well,” Hurst said. “Everybody comes in and contributes to winning, so you’ll just see a lot of that throughout the year.”