Transitioning into a whole new era isn’t easy for any collegiate program, and the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team is all too aware of that.
After losing to South Dakota State at home for the first time since joining the Summit League, the Coyotes fell to an unimpressive 8-13 on the season, with a 3-4 conference record.
While the wins and losses of the season can be broken down by the tiniest of numbers, there is really only one aspect that needs to be evaluated to garner a grander understand of the Coyotes’ struggles.
Each and every one of the Coyotes’ wins and losses have come in streaks of three or more. At their best, the Coyotes won five straight, while at their worst, they lost six consecutively.
So, while the season may be considered streaky at best, there have been moments to cheer about, but unfortunately it’s harder to shake off consecutive losses.
This pattern is understandable when looking at the team’s 2013-14 timeline. When the face of a program up and leaves mere weeks before the start of practice, it’s easy to comprehend why a young team such as the Coyotes don’t get off to the fastest of starts. This is notable with the team’s 0-3 start to begin the season.
So, we have an identity problem budding very early on. No one can pretend to know the fine workings of a team, but with plenty of young talent around and a new coach, finding the right mold is understandably difficult.
Flashes of the correct mold have been seen throughout the season, and maybe in no game better than Saturday’s loss to SDSU.
While the team suffered a loss, the consistent play by senior center Trevor Gruis, who has been a key to team success nearly his entire career, paired with offensive help by sophomore Casey Kasperbauer (17 points) and newcomer Trey Norris (14 points), gave the Coyotes a good look on offense.
However, like it has been all season, it was filling in other aspects of the game that slowed down the Coyotes.
Saturday, even though the team clicked on offense, the Jacks won the rebound battle 32-22, grabbing eight offensive boards.
In other games, it may not have been the struggle on the boards, but perhaps shooting woes like in USD’s 85-59 loss to Youngstown State Dec. 29, 2013. The Coyotes shot just 35 percent from the field, shooting an abysmal 27 percent in the first half. In that game, the Coyotes won the rebound battle, but could not complement with baskets on the other end. Consistency.
As the season’s end draws nearer, look for Interim Head Coach Joey James and the Coyotes to settle in closer to a mold that fits the talents of the team. The team is young, and has potential to be a danger as one of the finest shooting teams in the conference, with a solid 44 percent on the year.
And as the consistency progresses, expect the wins to come along with it.
Follow reporter Austin Ashlock on Twitter @A_Ashlock33