BY JEREMY HOECK
BROOKINGS — One of my least favorite phrases in sports, ‘It could’ve been worse’ is bouncing around in my head as I sit here in Frost Arena following yet another win by the home team in this men’s State-U rivalry.
South Dakota State beat rival University of South Dakota 67-54 on Thursday night in what became the seventh straight win by the home team in this series — four at the Division I level.
For the Coyotes, a 13-point loss is certainly much better than a 30-point beat-down last season in Brookings, but as you listen to the USD coaches and players, they’re not all that interested in progress like that.
No, the Coyotes what to win now.
As frustrating as it can be in this win-now culture, USD instead has learned that it requires patience to beat a team like SDSU on the road. The Coyotes have upended the Jacks twice in Vermillion, but have been forced to look at moral victories away from the DakotaDome.
“We can learn from this; grow from this,” freshman Casey Kasperbaur told the media. “We just have to keep moving forward.”
Asked later about Thursday’s performance, USD coach Dave Boots lauded his team’s effort, saying the guys didn’t shoot horribly (49 percent is rather good), but were done in by turnovers (17) and again, size issues.
“We’re not just physically there to do a great job in those areas,” Boots said.
It’s been a rather consistent theme for the inconsistent Coyotes, who drop to 8-14 overall and 4-6 in the Summit League, but one they clearly realize and one the coaches have said they will address.
- The Jackrabbits, notably Jordan Dykstra (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Tony Fiegen (11 points) did a nice job in the paint against USD junior Trevor Gruis. The Coyote big man was held to 1-of-2 shooting and was whistled for 4 fouls. SDSU said later that its game plan was to a) pound the ball inside, and b) get the ball out of Gruis’ hands.
- The attendance of 6,130 was a second straight sellout for SDSU.
- Dykstra became the 43rd player in SDSU history to reach 1,000 points. Head coach Scott Nagy later pointed to Dykstra’s level of competition as impressive.
- USD’s three freshmen, Casey Kasperbauer, Tyler Flack and Eric Robertson combined to score 24 points, no doubt significant considering the intense atmosphere. Kasperbauer, who had a good game against SDSU in the first meeting at the DakotaDome, led the Coyotes with 15 points on Thursday.
- SDSU’s home winning streak is now 27 straight, third-longest in Division I. Only Syracuse and Kansas have won more in a row at home.