BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION — 2004.
Eight years ago.
That was the last time the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team welcomed rival South Dakota State to the DakotaDome.
Louie Krogman was 14 years old. Nate Wolters was 12. Both programs were at the Division II level and members of the North Central Conference.
A lot has changed, in other words.
Thursday night, the squads meet again on the Dome court for what is expected to be a loud and rowdy crowd of nearly 8,000 people.
This time, though, the sense of “unfamiliarity” that surrounded the Jan. 12 meeting in Brookings will be gone. The visiting Jackrabbits (19-6), winners by 30 in that first game, will be playing to maintain their momentum in the Summit League.
USD, however, will be looking to make its biggest statement since joining the Division I waters. The Coyotes (8-14) have a chance to help spoil SDSU’s bid for a regular season league title, while on some level, salvaging a season that has been marked with frustration.
A win over the Jackrabbits would certainly make the off-season less miserable. Though it certainly won’t be easy.
SDSU jumped out early and never took its foot off the gas pedal in that first meeting up in Brookings. The crowd hopped on the Coyotes from the start and spurred by their team’s play, never relented.
Now it’s USD’s turn to return the favor.
Will the Coyotes play better in front of their home fans?
Or will the Jacks come out fast again and further establish as the dominant program right now?
We’ll find out Thursday night.