BY JEREMY HOECK
With the first weekend slate of games in the Summit League gone, what are we take from the 1-1 record by the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team?
Probably not too much immediately, though it wouldn’t be a stretch to think the Coyotes (4-4, 1-1) could have won both.
Consider: Thursday’s game with Western Illinois was won at the buzzer on a runner by first team all-league guard Ceola Clark, mere seconds after USD tied the game with a three-pointer. Who knows what happens in overtime, with the DakotaDome crowd all amped up at that point.
Saturday’s game with IUPUI was dominated from start to finish by the Coyotes. USD shot 68 percent from the field in the first half to lead 49-33 at the break and kept on the pressure, even with a 20-plus lead most of the second half.
Sure, both of those teams were picked to finish in the middle of the pack of the Summit League, but let’s not forget Western Illinois nearly won the conference tournament last season. And IUPUI isn’t all that bad either, the Jaguars have a Purdue transfer (Jon Hart) who dropped 29 points on Saturday.
The bigger story, in my eyes, was USD. This is a much different team than the one that went 5-13 in the Summit League last season. The Coyotes took a significant step forward in the overall athleticism by adding point guard Juevol Myles, guard/forward Karim Rowson and freshman forward Tyler Flack. Then you add in freshman guard Casey Kasperbauer who can light it up from deep (though, like everyone else, is still trying to figure out ways to be consistently successful), and you’ve the makings for a potentially scary team in February and March.
Offensively, as well, you really saw flashes of something special this weekend. Head coach Dave Boots said he “tweaked” some things with the offense, going to more of a motion style, pushing the pace and working the ball around.
No doubt, it worked.
Combined between the second half vs Western Illinois and the first half vs IUPUI, the Coyotes scored 101 points. A lot of that can be determined by solid defensive play (as the players would tell you), but given a consistent effort like the weekend, you could see where the Coyotes could be better offensively in the Summit League.
Time will tell. USD is out of conference play until Dec. 29 when it travels to Omaha, so the next three and a half weeks are stiff non-conference tests with the likes of Iowa (Tuesday night), Ball State, Morehead State and Green Bay.