Coyote men look to close season with wins
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Coyote men look to close season with wins

Only two games remain before the Summit League Tournament begins. After a loss to Denver in the final game in the DakotaDome, the Coyote men look to end the regular season strong and enter the tournament with momentum.

USD will be on the road for their final two games. They take on IUPUI Thursday and Western Illinois Saturday. Last time out IUPUI defeated the Coyotes 77-66 in the DakotaDome. Coyote head coach Craig Smith said the Jaguars got hot against the Coyotes.

“We really got beasted. They were in beast mode on us the entire game,” Smith said. “They really killed us inside with post touches and they manhandled us on the glass.”

That game was the first Summit League conference game of the season. Smith notes that USD has grown as a team since then.

“Now we’re a totally different team,” Smith said. “That was the first game of conference when Flack really wasn’t playing and Austin Sparks wasn’t playing a whole lot. Hopefully that’ll make a big difference.”

The Western Illinois game could take on a different feel if different things happen this week. The Leathernecks are currently two games behind the Coyotes for the final Summit League Tournament spot, but a Coyote loss and a Western Illinois win could make the game interesting.

The Coyotes took down Western Illinois 76-67 last time out, but if each team is fighting for the final spot, this game could take on a new meaning. Coyote senior guard Trey Norris said the Leathernecks are going to come out swinging.

“We need the same game plan from when we played them here at home,” Norris said. “Western’s a good team. I know if it comes down to it and it’s their last chance to get in the tournament they’re going to fight hard.”

Norris has stepped up into the gap created in Shy McClelland’s absence. Norris has started each game since, and played the full 40 minutes against Denver. The increased minutes have had no ill effect on Norris, he said. He scored 10 points and had five assists against the Pioneers.

“I’m not really having a problem with it, I’m more tired than anything,” Norris said. “My sophomore year I started every game and played 35, 36 minutes a game so I’m kind of used to playing heavy minutes.”

Norris is now the main distributor and ball handler for the Coyotes.

“Coach is putting more responsibility in my hands,” Norris said. “He’s putting the ball in my hands the majority of the time, so I’m just having fun in my last couple of games.”

Freshmen Dan Jech and Tyler Hagedorn have also seen bigger roles and junior forward Tyler Flack has stormed back from injury and into the starting lineup.

“We’ve seen some growth in some areas, we’ve just got to get it to be consistent growth. Whether it’s day to day in practice or game to game,” Smith said. “We’re starting to get the feel of what we’re going to get each night from certain guys.”