BY JEREMY HOECK
(I’ll try to get back into blogging more for 2014, I promise. Between frequent Daily Dose mini-columns and Twitter updates, there are plenty of chances to opine.)
Having spent most of Saturday at the DakotaDome for USD’s basketball doubleheader, I figured now is the best time to share some observations and notes from both sides.
Although the Coyote women defeated previously-unbeaten Wyoming 82-78, this is probably the best time to talk more about the Coyote men. Saturday was their home opener; their first chance to play in front of the hometown fans — the USD women had already played at home and had already played regional games in Sioux Falls and Omaha (with fans getting a few chances to see them).
Saturday was the first chance we got, in person, to see the three USD men’s redshirts that the program has been raving about for a year. Not to mention the first home game under interim head coach Joey James.
My initial observation while watching the Coyote men was size. The guys looked on first glance like they put in some extra time in the DakotaDome weight room this summer — guys like Tyler Flack, Brandon Bos and Casey Kasperbauer, especially, looked noticeably bigger.
And run too. They certainly got a chance against NAIA Graceland, leading the fast break points 21-2. In a fast-paced affair like Saturday, seeing USD record 24 assists to only 12 turnovers was rather impressive.
Said James: “The fact that we had 24 assists shows that we’re an unselfish basketball team. We have guys that can score the ball, not just two or three.”
Every player who came into the game for USD scored a point, led by eight in double figures. Yes, EIGHT. Just imagine a game where the Coyotes would break that record. To put NINE in double figures would mean you’re probably dropping 120-plus points on some lower-level team.
On those three redshirts from a year ago I referenced, point guard Trey Norris, to me, was probably most impressive.
It’s obvious he’s a ‘pass-first’ point guard, which means from a literal sense, he was out there to get everyone else going. Norris still finished with 11 points, but most notably, he dished out nine assists and didn’t turn the ball over. Granted, he wasn’t facing the best of defensive squads, but he looked under control, never seemed like he looked lost or out of system.
That’s really going to be something to watch for USD, once they get into the Summit League and face the kind of defensive pressure of a North Dakota State or a Western Illinois — both of whom can make you look pretty bad on a given day.
Adam Thoseby, the second of the three redshirts in the starting lineup, finished with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, with eight rebounds. It’s obvious with his size, at 6-foot-5, that Thoseby will be able to rebound in the paint against some Summit League bigs. The Coyotes had no issues at all on the glass against Graceland, but USD has some athletic, long guys who can help posts Trevor Gruis and Tyler Flack hold down the fort in the paint.
Another one of those athletic wings is Tyler Larson, the third redshirt. He came off the bench to scored three points, grab seven rebounds and dish out four assists in 22 minutes Saturday. You can tell that Larson is still getting back into the flow of the game following a knee injury, but in time you could see where he will be a significant weapon off the bench for the team.
Other than that, the Graceland game didn’t give you much to chew on (other than USD being handed a significant wakeup call before figuring things out in a 27-point win).
Monday night against Utah Valley will be a better challenge.
Utah Valley (2-4), a former member of the Great West Conference like USD, will be finishing a 5-game road trip in Vermillion. Coyote fans will remember names like Ben Aird and Holton Hunsaker (son of coach Dick Hunsaker).