No one said winning would come easy.
The first-seeded USD Coyotes (24-8) took on the eighth-seeded Western Illinois Leathernecks in the first round matchup of the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
The Coyotes rushed out to an early lead of 18-11 just moments into the game, but would ultimately go into halftime tied at 37 after a Leathernecks buzzer-beater.
Gathering themselves during the break, the Coyotes came out of the second half taking the lead but were never able to pull away and eventually fell into overtime.
In overtime, the Coyotes turned up the defense by allowing only one point while scoring 10 of their own to come out with a 78-69 win and advance to the second round of the tournament.
The scoring effort for the Coyotes was lead by sophomore guard Matt Mooney and senior center Tyler Flack with 24 and 19 points, respectively.
Senior guard Garret Covington was the driving force behind the Leathernecks’ attempt to take down the Coyotes and scored 25 points. Also heavily contributing for the Leathernecks was sophomore center Brandon Gilbeck’s defensive performance along with 11 rebounds and five of the team’s six blocks.
Coyotes head coach Craig Smith credited their defense in earning the win.
“Survive and advance,” Smith said. “Our defense, at the end of the game, was what won it for us. Our guys did a really good job of responding.”
Flack said the team being aggressive at the end of the game really helped them grind out the win.
“Our team is a lot better when we are the aggressor,” Flack said. ” We showed a little bit of inexperience, but we stepped up and I’m excited for us going forward.”
The Coyotes next game will be on Monday at 6 p.m. against the winner of the South Dakota State-Denver game.