While they may not be the biggest players in the league or the most athletic, the University of South Dakota men’s basketball players rallied offensively and defensively Tuesday night to grab a win at home.
Despite a slow start to their game against Avila University, the Coyotes defeated the Eagles 84-60 in the DakotaDome, marking a three-game winning streak.
“It obviously got off to a slow start,” head coach Craig Smith said. “That’s mental toughness — how prepared are you to play. (Avila) makes you play every single minute.”
USD struggled in the first few minutes of play, turning the ball over six times to Avila’s two times in the first eight minutes.
“We came out slow, and we knew we had to pick it up,” junior guard Tre Burnette said.
Despite a quick lead over the Eagles 10-2, the Coyotes gave up a 9-0 run to trail 11-10.
USD quickly turned the game around with four consecutive threes from Casey Kasperbauer with roughly seven minutes to play in the first half.
“We didn’t want to play down to the level of competition,” junior guard Sekou Harris said. “We wanted to go out and stop them.”
USD ended the first half ahead of Avila 43-29, with Kasperbauer putting up a total of 12 points. Burnette added another 10 points and had eight rebounds.
Avila’s D’Vante Lewis scored seven points for the Eagles, with Sedrick Johnson adding another six points in the first half.
USD out-rebounded the Eagles 25-8 in the first half.
“In practive we have a lot of drills we’ve been working on with four on four to focus on rebounding,” said first-year guard D.J. Davis. “You have to do the little things to stay on the floor.”
Senior guard Brandon Bos scored nine points in the first five minutes of the second half to help the Coyotes secure a 20-point lead against the Eagles, with three more rebounds from Burnette.
USD closed out the night 84-60 against Avila.
Kasperbauer finished the night with 15 points, with Burnette pulling off a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Bos recorded 10 points, while senior guard Tyler Larson finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Avila’s Lewis scored 15 points, with Nduka Ezeamii putting up 13 points. While the Eagles only forced eight turnovers to USD’s 15, the Coyotes outrebounded Avila 49-17.
USD improves to 14-14 overall, dropping Avila to 13-13. The Coyotes host IUPUI Saturday in the DakotaDome with tipoff at 2 p.m.
“We know early on that we weren’t the best at home, but these next four games at home wil be an advantage,” Burnette said. “This game gave us a lot of momentum going into the next four games.”
(Photo: James Hunter, senior center, goes up for a shot against Avila in Tuesday night’s win at the DakotaDome. Chris Timmerman / The Volante)