A coaching staff’s inaugural year accompanied by injuries and growing pains limited the USD men’s basketball team for a large part of the season, but after winning four of their last five games, the Coyotes look to storm through the Summit League.
Todd Lee’s first season as head coach was far from what was hoped for. After finishing second in the Summit League Tournament, there were hopes the Coyotes could continue to build upon that, even with star Matt Mooney transferring to Texas Tech and head coach Craig Smith leaving for Utah State.
The troubles started when Tyler Hagedorn injured his foot, causing him to miss the entire season. It continued from there as transfer Cody Kelley injured his ankle early in the season. After Kelley recovered, seniors Trey Burch-Manning and Logan Power injured their feet, causing both of them to miss significant time in January, and into February for Power.
Freshman Matt Johns is out for the season with an injury, but for now, the team is healthier and playing cohesively.
One aspect that has brought consistency for the Coyotes comes in the form of a 6-foot-6-inch guard: Stanley Umude. He was named to the all-Summit first team Thursday after a breakout sophomore season. Umude averages 14.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this season, increasing to 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in conference play.
A slew of injuries have forced Lee to allocate minutes throughout the roster, and junior Triston Simpson has taken the brunt of them. Simpson averages 38.5 minutes per game in conference play, leading the Summit League. He is also second on the team in scoring at 14 points per game.
On Jan. 17, Lee was ejected from a game in Tulsa, Okla. against Oral Roberts. USD dropped that game 77-74. That loss started a long slump for the Coyotes, who lost six of seven games from the Jan. 17 to Feb. 10.
With five games remaining in the regular season, USD was in danger of missing the Summit League tournament all-together. Instead, the Coyotes won four of their last five games, their lone loss being at South Dakota State, where USD held an 11-point halftime lead.
The season finale and Senior Day game decided who and when the Coyotes would play in the opening round of the Summit League tournament. USD topped North Dakota 78-63, giving the Coyotes the six seed and a match-up with Purdue-Fort Wayne in the first round Sunday night at 8:30 p.m.
Purdue-Fort Wayne and USD split their regular season matchups, with the home team prevailing in both games. The Coyotes beat the Mastodons 87-73 back on Jan. 13. The Mastodons won their home game 102-71. The loss for the Coyotes was in the middle of their conference slump.
Purdue-Fort Wayne is led by senior John Konchar. Konchar is second in the conference in points per game (19.7) and third in rebounds (8.5). Senior Jason Harrell is second on the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game and junior Matt Holba contributes 11.8 points per game.
The winner of USD-PFW plays the winner of Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota Monday night. UNO and UND play Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. On the top half of the bracket, regular season champion South Dakota State plays Western Illinois at 6 p.m. Saturday. North Dakota State and Oral Roberts play in the four versus five seed matchup at 6 p.m. Sunday. The winners of SDSU-WIU and ORU-NDSU play Monday evening.
All games are played at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. All quarterfinal and semifinal games are aired on MidcoSN/ESPN+ with the championship aired on ESPN2 Tuesday night.