All Roads Lead To….First Place

So far in Great West Conference action, the road has been fairly kind to the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team.

The Coyotes, 12-9 overall, emerged from a four-game league road trip with three victories.

As the dust clears, USD is in first place in the Great West with a 4-1 record.

The latest was a 72-71 win at Texas-Pan American on Saturday, thanks to a late putback by Roman Gentry. USD allowed 51 first-half points to the Broncos, but used a strong second half to win.

After beating North Dakota 74-64 in the conference opener on Jan. 16, the Coyotes ventured on the road for four straight contests. USD began with an 86-68 loss to Utah Valley, but responded by routing North Dakota 82-64 and Houston Baptist 92-70, followed by Saturday’s win at UTPA.

In the league standings, Houston Baptist is second at 3-1. Pan American and New Jersey Tech are both 2-2, while North Dakota and Utah Valley are 2-3. Then there’s Chicago State at 1-4.

How have the Coyotes climbed to the top?

In league action, USD is first in the following categories — scoring (77.6), shooting (47.7%), three-point shooting (39.6%), total blocks (29) and total assists (71).

Individually, Gentry is third in scoring (18.8), while freshman Jake Thomas is fifth (16.4) thanks to a league-leading 17 three-pointers. Senior Tyler Cain is first in shooting (66.7%) and second in rebounding (11.0). Junior point guard Kendall Cutler ranks third in assists per game (3.4).

What that should tell you is that USD boasts the league’s most balanced starting group. And it certainly doesn’t hurt getting 11.2 points a game off the bench from sophomore Louie Krogman.

The Coyote men have one non-conference game this week, as USD will face Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Friday night in Edwardsville, Ill. From there, USD returns home for three straight Great West games.

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