The second-seeded Coyote men followed a similar route as the women earlier Tuesday, as the No. 1 South Dakota State University Jackrabbits swept past them in a heartbreaking final match of the Summit League Tournament in front of an 11,114 crowd at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls.
The Jacks triumphed over the Coyotes and won 97-87 to advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament.
Junior Matt Mooney led the Coyotes and scored his fifth 30-point game of the season, and was also named to the All-Tournament team after the game. Sophomore Tyler Peterson and junior Tyler Hagedorn added 15 points each.
Head coach Craig Smith said he was proud of Mooney’s performance.
“That guy, (Mooney), the stuff he’s had to do to get to this point, to see it first hand, it’s pretty remarkable what he does,” he said.
The Coyotes’ struggled on offense, as they shot 38 percent from the field, and made 11-of-29 of their threes.
The start of the game saw strong Coyote and Jackrabbit offense and defense, with the lead changing frequently by both teams as they shot back-to-back. The lead took over at around the half point in the first half, where the Jackrabbits stretched the lead by 13 and ended the first 47-35.
It was a lead the Coyotes couldn’t break after that. The second half saw better offense and defense by the Coyotes, and got the lead to under 10 with five minutes remaining, but they couldn’t scratch the Jackrabbit defense or offense, ultimately ending the score 97-87.
Smith said the Jackrabbits “earned” their win.
“They played one heck of a game… We really struggled guarding them,” he said. “This game doesn’t define us, we’ve had a historic season… I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team.”
Mooney said he gives SDSU credit for their win.
“They’re a really good team,” he said. “To Coyote fans, it doesn’t help, but I’m sorry. I played really bad. I’m really sorry we didn’t come through.”
Smith said this game was historic.
“As much as it hurts for us, it was a great day for the state of South Dakota,” he said.
Hagedorn said the team hopes to continue playing, especially with the upperclassmen, if they qualify for other tournaments this year.
“You just have to cherish every moment we get to play with our seniors,” he said. “We lose the four seniors… hopefully we get to play more basketball with them.”
The Coyotes finish 26-8 on the season.