Summit League Men’s Tournament: South Dakota Falls to Western Illinois By One
For the third time this season a Summit League game between the South Dakota Coyotes and Western Illinois Leathernecks came down to the final moments, and like the previous two, it was Western Illinois with the victory, 54-53, this time in the opening round of the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, Saturday night.
USD had already lost a pair of two point games to the Leathernecks during the regular season, and the Coyotes struggles from behind the three-point arc let Western Illinois rally for a win in this one. On the year, USD was a 41 percent three-point shooting team, but Saturday they hit just 4-of-15 (27%).
The Leathernecks were without the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Parks, the leading rebounder and shot blocker in the conference, who missed his third straight game with a foot injury. Michael Ochereobia got the start in Parks' place, and he responded with seven offensive rebounds in the first half.
Scoring the basketball was a problem for both teams, as the Coyotes and Leathernecks endured a stretch or more than five minutes of the first half without a field goal.
When they were scoring, there wasn't much separation. A pair of Ceola Clark three-pointers helped pace Western Illinois to an early three-point lead. But, seven first half points from Tyler Flack swung things back USD's way, and the Coyotes had a 25-21 halftime lead.
South Dakota extended the lead to six early in the second half, and had chances to extend the lead to nine, but misfired on a pair of three-pointers.
61 percent shooting in the second half brought Western Illinois back, as Ceola Clark led the way with 21 points.
USD would get as close as two with :38 left when Trevor Gruis rebounded a missed Karim Rowson free throw to make it 50-48. But two Jordan Foster free throws gave the Leathernecks enough of a cushion to make a Juevol Myles three-pointer at the buzzer meaningless.
Western Illinois moves into Monday's semifinals against either North Dakota State or Kansas City. South Dakota finishes the year 10-20.