(01/31) USD men vs. North Dakota

Man, it feels so long since I’ve blogged from the DakotaDome.

But we’re back at it today for the University of South Dakota men and North Dakota. The Coyotes (16-5) won have 13 straight games, including a 98-77 pasting of the Sioux last Saturday in Grand Forks, N.D.

In this series, USD has claimed 12 of the last 13 matchups, with the one hiccup coming in last year’s North Central Conference Tournament here in Vermillion.

An impressive crowd for both games today. The first 500 USD students were given white T-shirts with the hope the Dome would be “whited out” today. And remember, today’s game is being televised by Midcontinent, so there’s even more of a “big game” feel. But the players didn’t need any added motivation to play hard.

It’s go time.

— — — —

USD gets a pair of baskets from junior Tyler Cain and a three from senior Jesse Becker to go up 7-2, but the Sioux respond with a three-pointer from O.J. Harrison and a put-back from Travis Mertens. Dylan Grimsley also got a layup for the Coyotes, who lead 9-8 at the under 16 timeout.

Mitch Begeman strokes a three for USD and Becker later hits one to give the Coyotes a 17-12 lead. Cain just scored again inside. Cain gets another bucket off a nice spin move in the lane, prompting UND to call a timeout. It’s 21-12 Coyotes at the 12:19 mark.

You know it’s a big game when the cheerleaders, dance team and marching band show up.

In the women’s game, North Dakota won 68-55.

Cain already has 12 points for USD, and Becker just hit his third NBA-range three-pointer. Daniel Harkins for UND has eight points and four nearly identical drives to the hoop. USD freshman Louie Krogman just drained a three at the 8:37 mark, and UND coach Brian Jones calls another timeout. The Coyote lead is 31-16.

There’s a dude over in the USD student section wearing a penguin costume. Not sure what to say.

The 9-0 USD run ends when Mertens scores at the 5:30 mark, but Becker has five straight points. The Coyote margin is up to 18 (39-21). After the Sioux score three straight baskets, USD had the ball with under 30 seconds left in the half. Becker dribbled the ball around and got a running layup with under 3 seconds left. He then got a steal on the inbounds and put in another layup off the glass at the halftime buzzer.

HALF: USD 48, North Dakota 27.

Becker has scored 21 points already — his average is 13.1 — with 12 coming in the final five minutes of the half. Cain has 14 points for USD, while Grimsley has six points and six rebounds. The Coyotes hit 6-of-11 threes in the half, and 56 percent overall.

North Dakota got eight points from Harkins and Mertens, and shot 38 percent overall.

— — — —

The Sioux have come out firing in the second half. Darius Joseph hits a couple of layups, followed by back-to-back threes. USD coach Dave Boots calls a timeout, with his team up 50-37 at the 16:51 mark.

USD has started to put it together in the second half, but the Sioux are hanging tough. Coyote reserve Roman Gentry just hit a pair of free throws for his first points, after scoring 26 against UND last Saturday. The Sioux respond with layups from Joseph and Harkins. Things got a tad scrappy on a tie-up, but the Coyotes call a timeout.

Harkins scores again on another easy drive to the basket, and Joseph gets a steal in the open court and scores. The Coyote lead, which was 21 at halftime, has been trimmed to six. USD is up 57-51 with 11:06 to play.

UND cut the margin to 57-52 before Grimsley hit a jumper at the 9:10 mark. It was USD’s first field goal since Cain hit an early basket in the half. The USD students have really gotten on the UND bench the last few minutes, which is odd, considering those guys at the very end aren’t playing. Regardless, gotta love the enthusiasm.

Becker hits a pair of free throws and Steve Smith follows with a jumper off the glass, but UND’s Travis Bledsoe strokes a three right front of the UND bench. USD leads 63-55.

Pretty weird series. Grimsley runs the baseline and dunks one home, a play that got the Dome crowd roaring. But Bledsoe quiets them briefly with a deep three. On USD’s next time down the court, a UND player goes diving out off bounds for a loose ball, but Becker calmly picks it up and drains a three. Becker now has 27 points and USD leads 69-60 with 3:57 to play.

Krogman finds the stroke for a three in the corner, giving USD a 72-60 lead with under 3 to play. Down 13, the Sioux trimmed the lead to 73-65, but Gentry responds with a bucket. Harrison of UND scores at the 1:09 mark, but the Coyotes are headed to the free throw line again.

This one is over, folks.

Still, the Sioux are hanging tough. They get a basket and a field goal to pull within nine points with 39.4 to play. Grimsley hits a free throw, and UND’s Pat Mitchell gets a dunk. Gentry puts the Coyotes ahead 82-72 with a pair of free throws, but Harrison drains a three with 22.7 left.

The Coyote margin is 82-75.

Four free throws down the stretch seal the 86-75 win for the Coyotes. Becker finishes with 31.

FINAL: USD 86, UND 75.

That’s all from the DakotaDome. The Coyotes are now 17-5 and have won 14 straight games.

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