Tonight, the USD men go for 15 straight wins.
The Coyotes (17-5) are playing as good as any team in the country right now — Division I transitional or otherwise.
Offensively, they’re getting production from guys up and down the lineup. And with the addition of reserve Roman Gentry, this is probably one of the most athletic teams USD coach Dave Boots has ever had.
But to the task at hand. Tonight, USD hosts Lake Erie College (Ohio), a newcomer to the Division II ranks.
The Storm (5-15) defeated Urbana on Saturday, but prior to that had allowed 100 points in the previous two games. They boast two players in double figures, with Derrick Thornton (16.0) and Rick Leasure (13.8). Erie looks to be a deep team, as seven guys are averaging at least 20 minutes per game.
USD will start with the usual five: Louie Krogman, Jesse Becker, Dylan Grimsley, Tyler Cain and Steve Smtih.
Lake Erie will go with Ethan Bradshaw (6-1 So.), Derrick Thornton (6-4 Sr.), Matt Grendel (6-8 Fr.), John Dickinson (6-1 Sr.) and Rick Leasure (6-7 Sr.).
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Becker starts the game with one of his patented NBA range threes, and Grimsley follows with a jumper. But Erie’s Leasure hits a three-pointer in transition. Grimsley and Leasure trade baskets, and Grimsley then gets an old-fashioned three-pointer play. Thornton gets a layup at the 16:21 mark, but USD leads 10-7.
It’ll be interesting to see the intensity level of the Coyotes tonight, as they’re coming off a very emotional and high-energy game against North Dakota on Saturday. Something to keep an eye on. But remember, this team has been through this song and dance this season.
Leasure hit another three, Becker responds with a layup and Thornton is headed to the line to finish off a three-point play. Erie coach Cliff Hunt has been vocal — not yelling, just loud — about getting stops on defense.
Grimsley gets another basket and Cain later hits both free throws, but Erie’s Evan Garrett hits a running jumper over USD’s Rane Mergen. The Coyotes lead 20-14 at the 11:52 mark, but this Erie squad came to play. They’ve been moving the ball around nicely, trying to find open shots through USD’s matchup zone.
Back in after a two-minute breather, Grimsley strokes a three, and now has 14 points already. Cain, meanwhile, has eight points, six from the free throw line. It’s 27-16 USD.
Bradshaw scores five straight points for the Storm, but Grimsley puts back a Cain miss for another layup. Grimsley now has 16 points, and the USD lead is 33-25 at the 7:03 mark. Erie’s coach keeps talking to his guys about USD’s zone defense.
So far the story has been Erie’s ability to respond to USD baskets. Gentry hit a three, Krogman followed a Cain block with a layup in transition, but Erie’s Leasure strokes another three. The Coyote lead is now 38-30. Becker follows with a pair of free throws and Grimsley pulls up for a jumper to score. The home team margin is now up to 42-30.
HALF: USD 46, Lake Erie 34.
USD shot 55 percent (11-of-15 from the free throw line) and got 18 points from Grimsley. Cain already has a double double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Erie shot 42 percent, with Leasure at 13 points and Thornton at 12 points.
A pretty good halftime show. A game of P-I-G between associate athletic director David Herbster, who played collegiately at Virginia Tech, and former Coyote Eric Hall. For the record, Herbster won.
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Krogman drains a three to start the half, but Erie’s Bradshaw hits the second of 2 free throws, and Becker responds with a three in the corner. A minute later, after the teams trade baskets, it’s 54-37 USD.
The Coyotes have three players in double figures, with Grimsley, Cain and Becker.
Good to see U.Dance here on a Monday night. TGIM?
Sorry about the delay. The USD lead is 63-43 after Cain finishes a pretty reverse layup, prompting the Erie coach to mumble, “oh geez.” Anticipating the next media timeout, Becker walked by the media table and said, “I’m getting stiff out here.” Mild laughter ensued.
In transition, an Erie player misses a layup, but another tries to slam one down. The refs wave it off, obvious goaltending. The visiting bench is confused, asking what the call is. And then, a minute later, their coach emphatically calls a timeout. The same ref, not sure what type of timeout to signal and with a smile on his face, says, “I’m just confused.”
USD is up 69-43 after four straight baskets from different players. This game has really slowed down. Seems like the last five minutes have taken an hour.
The Coyote lead has been pushed to 74-45 with 6:11 to play. Mergen and Begeman get baskets to put USD up 78-48. I imagine the Coyote coaches are more then pleased with the team’s play here in the second half. They’re really put the hammer down on any Storm comeback thoughts.
FINAL: USD 85, Lake Erie 52.
That’s 15 straight wins for the Coyotes (18-5).