The string of three games in four days for the USD men concludes tonight.
And what a doozy it should be.
The Coyotes (7-5), riding a four-game winning steak, host Southwest Minnesota State (7-3) in what could be USD’s toughest Division II opponent this season.
The game is also being televised by Midcontinent Communications, channel 23 (I believe) where you can get it. And so far, it’s a pretty cool pre-game atmosphere in the Dome. Won’t be too many USD students in the house, but there should be close to 1,200 people, I’d guess.
The Mustangs come in already having scored road wins at South Dakota State, in an exhibition game, and North Dakota. With just one player in double figures, SMSU boasts an extremely balanced roster.
USD has already defeated Chadron State, Dana College, Minnesota-Duluth and Midland Lutheran in this homestand. The first two were relatively easy wins for the Coyotes, but the Duluth game was very physical and yesterday’s contest with Midland Lutheran required the Coyotes to kick it into high gear late.
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Coyotes come out firing, led by senior point guard Jesse Becker. Becker has already taken four shots and has five points (with a three-pointer). Once up 7-1, USD leads 9-7 at the first media timeout.
USD brings in the trio of Rane Mergen, Mitch Begeman and Roman Gentry at the 16:27 mark, and Mergen responds immediately with a basket underneath. He’ll head to the line when play resumes. Begeman and Louie Krogman hit three pointers and USD is up 17-11 at the 12:20 mark. Now two straight games that the Coyotes have come out strong offensively.
Becker just hit a jumper and has nine points already as USD leads 26-20. The Mustangs have been within four, but the Coyotes have answered. Scary scene when SMSU’s Nick Dale went down awkwardly on his right leg, writhing in pain. But after a minute, he was able to walk off the court. The SMSU crowd is pretty impressive behind us.
Taylor Huseby, a sophomore forward for SMSU, has 10 points already after coming in averaging 6.6. He’s hit two nice reverse layups on cuts to the basket. USD leads 31-28 at the 5:30 mark of the first half. Begeman hits another three — his third of the game — and the Coyotes are up 34-28 at the under 4 mark. After running mostly a man-to-man defense yesterday against Midland Lutheran, USD has gone with the traditional matchup zone.
Becker hits another three and has 12 points (1 under his average) and USD leads 37-33 with a minute left. With under 10 seconds to go, a Begeman three-point attempt kicks off to the left, it bounces to Smith at the top of the key. In one motion, dude picks up and shoots. Nearly rolls in. Buzzer sounds to a “ohhhhh” from the crowd.
HALF: USD 38, SMSU 34.
Coyotes shot 47 percent from the field, with 6 three-pointers. Becker has 14 points, Begeman has 9 off the bench and Smith leads the team with five rebounds and four assists.
SMSU shot 50 percent from the field, with 1 three-pointer and 5-of-10 from the free throw line (charity stripe?). Huseby leads the way with 10 points, while Ross DeMasi has seven rebounds.
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A basket by SMSU’s DeMasi cuts the Coyote lead to 41-40 with 16:27 left in the second half. Grimsley hits the first of two free throws and then hits a layup, giving the Coyotes a 44-40 lead. On the next possession, Grimsley pulls up for a mid-range jumper and hits it. The Coyotes move ahead 46-40 and SMSU calls a timeout at the 15:17 mark.
Following an 8-0 Coyote run, the Mustangs get a banked-in shot from DeAnthony Zanders and a three-pointer from Andy Beilke to pull within 49-45 at the 11:30 mark. USD’s Tyler Cain is 0-of-2 from the field and hasn’t scored in the game.
Ryan Krome of SMSU has hit his team’s last six points and the Mustangs have pulled within 52-51. USD responds immediately with a basket from Grimsley, who now has 12 points. Becker nearly gets called for a technical after he tried to save a ball from going out of bounds, was called for stepping on the line and slamming the ball on the court. Refs smartly don’t call a technical.
Cain gets his first basket of the game at the 8:21 mark, and later hits a pair of free throws. USD leads 58-53, with SMSU headed to the line to try and complete a three-point play. After SMSU’s Zanders barely beats the shot clock with a jumper, Cain scores down low for the Coyotes, who lead 61-56. USD has gotten a combined 12 points from Smith and Cain, but have gotten good perimeter play.
Gentry hits a three at the 4:25 mark to give USD a 64-56 lead. But Southwest responds with a free throw from Scott Roehl, followed by back-to-back baskets from DeMasi. The Coyotes are ahead 64-61 with 2:54 to play. Smith hits two free throws and Cain later hits the first of two, giving USD a 67-61 lead. On the inbounds play, there’s a pileup on the far in-line, and USD is granted a timeout.
DeMasi hits one free throw, then 22 seconds later hits a three from the top of the key. That was his first three-point attempt of the season. SMSU crowd is really into it now, as the Mustangs are within two. At the 1:06 mark, Beilke hits a running layup to tie the game. Then at the 48.3 mark, Becker turns the ball over and SMSU calls a full timeout.
We’ve got a game, folks.
Holy crap, what an ending.
Beilke hits a jumper at the top of the key, with 16.1 seconds left. SMSU is ahead 69-67. This place is going nuts right now.
With the ball down court, Becker drives to the hoop, hits the basket and is fouled with 7 seconds left. He hits the free throw to give USD a 70-69 lead. With 1.5 seconds remaining, SMSU’s DeMasi drives to the hoop and hits a basket.
But he’s called for an offensive foul. SMSU coach Greg Stemen goes effing ballistic and is called for a technical foul with 1.5 seconds left. Oh man, the Mustangs’ bench and crowd goes nuts. Becker hits the first of two free throws, giving USD a 71-69 lead.
Becker is then fouled on the inbounds play and hits both free throws with 0.5 seconds left. That’ll do it.
Coyotes win 73-69.
One of the best games I’ve ever seen, let alone covered. I’ll have more later.
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Now that I’ve had a few hours to digest what I saw tonight, I’m not so sure I agree with the charging call late in the game. I’ve never been one to really rag on referees or officials, because in most cases I think their jobs are difficult, but that call at that point in the game is iffy to me. That’s a very odd time to blow your whistle. To have a very exciting and tight game be basically determined by one call is unfair. To both teams. You don’t hustle your ass for 39 minutes and 50 seconds only to put the outcome in a ref’s hands.
But I was very impressed with how SMSU coach Greg Stemen handled himself in a post-game interview with myself and Mick Garry of the SF Argus Leader. Stemen was very calm and cool with his comments, but was obviously disappointed with the loss. His team could have very well won that game then lose it.
And the USD players we talked with both essentially said the same thing: The Coyotes needed something to go their way. The team has endured some tough losses the last two seasons, and late in the game Monday, it was looking very much like they could lose again.
But, like I said before, that was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever watched. And hopefully you had the chance to either watch the game on TV or listen to it on the radio.
Below is a link to my game story in Tuesday’s Press & Dakotan.