In Saturday’s matchup against Kansas City, USD men’s basketball did something they hadn’t yet done this season. They lost at home. In fact, it was only their fourth loss in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center since its completion three years ago.
“It sucks,” said junior guard Triston Simpson. “We don’t like losing at home at all. It’s kind of embarrassing, especially when you have a 12-point lead.”
A minute into the second half, USD (4-5) led UMKC 42-30, their largest lead of the game. To get there, the Coyotes shot 52 percent in the first half, didn’t allow UMKC’s leading scorer — Xavier Bishop — to score a single point, while Simpson scored all 16 of his points. Things looked up.
However, a Coyote roster, young and worn thin by injuries, faltered during the second half, giving the ball away 12 times and shooting 36 percent. Bishop scored ten of his 15 points in the last six minutes of the game, including a pair of free throws to give his team a 65-63 victory.
“He’s left-handed, but he’s actually better at going right and we let him get to his right hand too many times,” Simpson said. “He hit a transition three off a dumb turnover and I think that kind of got him going.”
Following Bishop, junior Danny Dixon contributed 14 points, making seven of eleven shots.
Sophomore Stanley Umude led the Coyotes with 18 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Tyler Peterson scored 12 points on three-for-eleven shooting. Senior Trey Burch-Manning added four points and seven rebounds.
UMKC’s 3-7 record isn’t pretty, but it is deceiving. Four of their seven losses have come from teams ranked top-100 in rating percentage index (RPI): Loyola-Chicago, Iowa, Connecticut, and Drake.
“They’re a dangerous team,” USD head coach Todd Lee said. “I think that was a game of experience of guys who are used to being ‘main guys’ opposed to guys who are used to being role players. We played against them three times last year, know exactly how to play them. Unfortunately, our guys didn’t pay attention to the scouting report.”
Saturday’s loss is the Coyotes’ third determined by one possession, according to Lee, whose team is struggling with depth issues in the absence of forwards Tyler Hagedorn, Matt Johns, and Dan Jech.
“Our guys wear down. Triston’s playing 39 minutes, [Peterson]’s playing 40 minutes. Cody (Kelley) played 24 minutes, and shouldn’t have. We don’t have enough guys that can play right now.”
Umude, who scored a career-high 19 points against CSU-Bakersfield last Saturday, is a player stepping up underneath the basket in the Coyotes’ current lack of forwards.
“Umude didn’t even play last year, and he was our best player today,” Lee said. “He’s a sophomore, but literally has played no college basketball before this year. It’s like teaching a high school player how to play college basketball. He has ability, and he’s a good athlete. As long as he keeps working and coming to practice with a purpose in mind, he’ll get better and better.”
USD’s next contest is against Bellevue (5-8) at the SCSC Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. After that, road trips to Colorado State and No. 2 Kansas.
“We’ve got some games coming up that’ll be really tough.” Lee said. “We’re a work in progress. We just have to figure out how to get better.”