After a week off, it’s back to action for the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team.
And the opponent?
Utah Valley, which handed the Coyote men their only loss in Great West Conference action a month ago.
USD, 5-1 in league play, hosts a Utah Valley (11-13, 4-4) team that has the second-best overall record — to South Dakota (14-9) — in the conference. On Jan. 21 in Orem, Utah, the Wolverines beat the Coyotes 86-68.
I wasn’t at that game, but by all accounts, the Wolverines really turned up the pressure on USD, especially in the second half, to pull away. In that game, the Coyotes actually shot 50 percent from the field, but was just 14-of-30 at the free throw line. Tyler Cain had 20 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
The player to watch for Utah Valley is Jordan Swarbrick, who leads the team in scoring (13.0 ppg). But in the win over USD, the Wolverines got 23 points from Shawn Deadwiler, so I’d imagine that’ll be the key tonight for the hosts — not letting him go off again.
Almost time to go.
USD — Kendall Cutler (G), Jake Thomas (G), Roman Gentry (G/F), Tyler Cain (F) and Steve Smith (C)
Utah Valley — Shawn Deadwiler (G), Kevin Woods II (G), Tyray Petty (G), Jourdain Scubes (F) and Justin Baker (F)
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For the first time in a recent memory, the second half of a USD doubleheader actually starts near 8 p.m. Tip-off will get the game underway at 8:05. Me (and my editor James D. Cimburek) like.
Quick note about Utah Valley head coach Dick Hunsaker: When he was with the University of Utah in 2001, he coached the Utes for all but one game after coach Rick Majerus took an absence. The Utes went 18-12 and won the Mountain West Conference. And while at Utah Valley, Hunsaker guided the Wolverines to 22 wins in 2006-07 — the most for a Division I independent since 1986.
Not the prettiest start to this puppy.
Wolverines lead 2-1 at the 15:40 mark. Coyotes are 1-of-4 at the free throw, that one coming from Smith. Utah Valley’s Deadwiler got a basket on the next possession. Coyotes have four blocks so far.
There’s a pretty good little Utah Valley contingent in the bleachers behind us.
Exactly seven minutes into the game, USD hits its first shot from the field. Reserve Louie Krogman got a layup in traffic, and got a nice hand from the crowd for it. It’s 4-3 Utah Valley.
The teams are a combined 2-of-29 from the field. Coyotes got a three-pointer from Jake Thomas at the 11:24 mark, to pull ahead 6-4. I can’t remember the last time I saw a game like this.
The pace has picked up a tad. A TAD. Coyotes lead 12-9 after a Gentry three-pointer ahead of the current timeout. Wolverines had tied things up at 9-9 after reserve Eric Dearden drained a long three. USD has improved to 4-of-21 from the field.
Wolverines tie the game at 13-13 thanks to a pair of free throws from Woods II. With 3:57 left in the half, the teams are a combined 8-of-47 from the field. USD’s Cain already has 9 rebounds.
Krogman drains a three from the top of the key to give USD an 18-17 cushion. (Is that a cushion? I hate writing “lead” all the time). On the last series down the court for Utah Valley, Cain had 2 straight blocks on moves by the Wolverine big man. Cain’s got to have at least 5 swats by now.
One thing I’ve noticed on defense for the Wolverines is a nice job doubling USD’s posts down low. Cain hasn’t scored yet, and there haven’t been any easy looks from the paint.
HALFTIME: South Dakota 22, Utah Valley 19.
Coyotes were 7-of-29 from the field, with Gentry and Krogman combining for 6 of those made shots. USD drained 3 three-pointers and was 5-of-10 from the field. Roman Gentry leads with 11 points and Cain has 9 rebounds.
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Gentry puts USD ahead 24-19 right out of halftime, but the Wolverines mount a little 5-0 rally to tie the game at 24-24 with 18:01 to play. Gentry just scored on a little runner in the lane to give the Coyotes the lead back. The senior guard/forward has a game-high 15 points.
Utah Valley must like these grind-it-out league games. Earlier this season, the Wolverines beat Chicago State 43-41.
Gentry has really picked it up this half. He’s scored 9 of USD’s 12 points in the second half.
Coyotes lead 34-30 with 12:31 to play. Gentry just scored in transition on a banked-in layup. Utah Valley’s coach was furious about the last call. Dude was way out to halfcourt during this timeout.
USD has put together an 8-2 run to take a 42-34 cushion (see, there it was) with 8:28 left. Cain got on the scoreboard for the Coyotes for the first time.
With 4:05 left in the game, the USD advantage is 49-40. Krogman just drained a three-pointer in transition, bringing the crowd to its feet. That followed a pair of free throws by Cutler. The Coyotes have really gotten things going the last few minutes, especially on defense. A ton of deflected passes, blocks, steals, etc.
A layup by Deadwiler brings Utah Valley within 54-50 with 54.6 seconds to play. Wolverines call their final timeout. All of a sudden, the teams are hitting shots.
The Coyotes once had a 52-45 cushion, but Swarbrick — Utah Valley’s leading scorer — drained a three. Then came a Krogman basket.
Wolverines aren’t going away. Swarbrick drains a three with 10.2 seconds left, bring Utah Valley within 57-55. Then, after being fouled, USD’s Thomas hits both free throws. Coyotes call a timeout, up 59-55 with 9.2 seconds left in the game.
Wolverines push the ball down court and miss a contested three. Ball bounces around and time runs out.
FINAL: South Dakota 59, Utah Valley 55
Coyotes move to 15-9 overall and 6-1 in the Great West Conference.
That’ll do it for me. Hope you followed along and enjoyed yourself.