Man, what a difference a month makes.
On Tuesday, Dec. 2, the USD men’s basketball team was 3-5 after a 26-point loss at nationally-ranked Notre Dame. The Coyotes had already dropped games to Cornell, Cincinnati, Post University and West Texas A&M.
Fast forward to today, Tuesday, Dec. 30.
The Coyotes (9-5) have won six straight games and are coming off a 74-66 win Sunday at the University of New Orleans — the program’s first Division I victory.
Not only that, senior point guard Jesse Becker was today named the Great West Conference Player of the Week. It was a well-deserved honor, considering Becker dropped 51 points in two games last week.
And now USD opens a five-game home stand tonight against St. Olaf. You hate to say it like this, but the Coyotes could very easily be 14-5 by the end of this home streak.
Tonight’s opponent is St. Olaf, a team that has played exactly half the number of games USD has. The Division III Oles (3-4), who are members of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, boast one player in double figures — 6-3 freshman guard Bobby Fong (14.7).
We’re about 14 minutes from tip-off.
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Fong has five quick points for St. Olaf, but Becker and Louie Krogman have hit threes for USD, which leads 7-5. Coyote senior Dylan Grimsley also hit one of two free throws for USD’s other point. Krogman hits a runner in the lane and will head to the line after the first media timeout.
Pretty respectable crowd here tonight. I think having a doubleheader helped matters, because folks ’round these parts (if they’re anything like me) love familiarity. Basketball doubleheaders just feel….right. Speaking of which, the USD women beat Nebraska-Kearney in the opener.
Mark Torrel and Stuart Neville hit back-to-back threes for St. Olaf (the Oles already have three in the game), but USD is ahead 12-11 on a Tyler Cain putback in the paint. St. Olaf’s Nate Krosschell scores down low, but Grimsley does the same on the other end. USD’s Steve Smith blocks a shot out of bounds and we’re at the second media timeout.
Had the chance to catch up with Dave Jenner, Nebraska-Kearney’s radio man from KGFW 1340 AM. Had the chance to meet “Lil Dave” — as he’s known — for the first time last year, and then again during the women’s national tournament in Kearney. Jenner’s a hilarious dude, the perfect mix of quirky and sane you want in a radio voice. Anyway, it was good to see him again.
USD leads 22-15, after Becker banked in a three, hit a free throw and another three from Krogman. Louie has nine points so far. St. Olaf’s Fong hits another three and the Oles pull to within 22-18. Gotta give St. Olaf credit, they’ve come in here and played aggressive so far. They’ve made every USD basket a challenge, with the exception of a few open threes.
The Coyotes are a little out of sync right now, as another pass to the paint goes out of bounds. Becker hit another three the possession before, but St. Olaf’s Alred Jaryan hit a layup in transition. At the under 4 media timeout, USD is up 27-22. Becker is wearing a wrap on his right elbow after apparently tweaking it down in New Orleans, but so far it doesnt appear to be bothering him. Seconds after I type that, dude hits a layup off the glass on a drive to the line (he now has 12 points).
HALF: USD 31, St. Olaf 28
For USD, Becker has 12 points, followed by Krogman (9), Grimsley (4) and Roman Gentry (4). Coyotes hit 5-of-11 three-pointers and 4-of-9 free throws.
For St. Olaf, Fong has eight points, while eight other players have scored already. Man, that’s balance. More impressively, a total of five players have hit a three-pointer. The Oles haven’t been to the free throw line.
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St. Olaf is not planning to roll over. The Oles pull to within 33-22 on an easy layup by Matt Christensen. Then Brady McMahon hits the second of two free throws to tie the game at 33. Grimsley hits four straight points, but St. Olaf later takes a 38-37 lead on a three by Torell. USD responds with a Cain monster dunk in the lane. So, at the first media timeout of the second half, USD leads 39-38.
My sincere apologies on the MASSIVE blogging delay. The Internet connection in the Dome suddenly was almost nonexistent, so I was unable to even load a single page.
But here’s what transpired: St. Olaf last led 47-46 at the 12:23 mark, but USD cruised from there. Grimsley, who has been fighting the flu, scored 21 points, while Krogman had 20 and Becker had 18. Gentry added 12 off the bench. That quartet scored 71 of USD’s 77 points.
The Coyote win streak hits seven. USD will go for eight in a row on Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Mayville State.