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Summit League Preview: South Dakota Men at Fort Wayne, Host South Dakota State

Denver v USD men's basketball
University of South Dakota

After moving themselves a game closer to the top of the Summit League standings with a win at first-place North Dakota State last weekend, the  South Dakota men’s basketball team still has some unfinished business on the road this week, before heading home to battle their biggest rivals.

The Coyotes (16-10/7-4) travel to pre-season favorite Fort Wayne, Wednesday (February 8) night.

The Mastodons (16-8/5-5), last season’s regular season co-champs (with South Dakota State), started the conference schedule winning three-of-four, but have struggled as of late, losing four of their last five on the road, four of six overall, to fall to two games off the pace in the Summit League.

Fort Wayne is a much better team at home this season. Their 11-1 record on their home floors (Gates Center, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum) includes a win over then number-three Indiana. The Mastodons are 16 points per game better at home, and shoot the ball eight percentage points better from the field and ten percent better from the three-point line.

This season, Fort Wayne is taking, and making, more shots from the field and the three-point line than any other team in the conference. They are second in scoring (84 points per game).

Three Mastodon players are in the top 11 in the league in scoring, with Mo Evans, Bryson Scott, and John Konchar averaging nearly 50 points per game combined.

USD won the first meeting 66-63, limiting Fort Wayne to just 36 percent shooting, and Konchar to just 4-of-12 from the floor. The Mastodons attempted 32 three-pointers in the game.

The Coyotes were led by Matt Mooney’s 30 points and got 15 off the bench from Tyler Hagedorn.

Tipoff is 6:00 PM in Fort Wayne.

Saturday (February 11) in Vermillion, it’s the first-ever meeting between South Dakota and South Dakota State in the new Sanford Coyote Sports Center.

The Jackrabbits (12-14/5-6) have really turned things around lately, winning four-of-five after dropping five-of-six to start Summit League play.

All-conference forward Mike Daum is a big reason why. The conference’s pre-season player of the year leads the Summit in scoring (26 points per game), but has been even more impressive on the offensive end as of late. The sophomore has hit 56 percent of his shots and averaged 32 points per game over SDSU’s last five. He also leads the league in attempted and made free throws, and is third in both three-pointers and rebounds.

Newcomers AJ Hess and Chris Howell both average in double figures in scoring, but Hess has missed the last three games with injury. Ian Theisen is also hurt and has not played in the last two.

The Jacks are second in the Summit in three-point attempts and rebounding.

SDSU won first meeting 73-72 on a Daum jumper with 2.8 seconds left. The Coyotes did not shoot the ball well in the first half at Frost Arena, just 31 percent from field, 1-of-16 from the three-point line.

USD went from eight points down to eight ahead in the second half, thanks to 58 percent shooting (7-14 three-pointers) in the second 20 minutes, but gave up 30 points in the final 10:50.

Daum’s game winner capped a 30-point game. 13 of those points came from the free throw line.

Tipoff is 1:00 PM in Vermillion.

The Coyotes split a pair of road games last week.

At Omaha, Wednesday (February 1), USD shot the ball well (53%), but gave up 13 offensive rebounds and a dozen additional shot attempts to the Mavericks, who had five players score in double figures.

The Coyotes trimmed a 14-point deficit to just one in the final eight minutes, but couldn’t grab the lead in the 91-83 loss.

Matt Mooney had 22 points, Tyler Flack 21, for South Dakota.

At first place North Dakota State, Saturday (February 4), USD used a 24-4 run at the end of the first half to grab a 13-point advantage at intermission.

Mooney had a big first half, scoring 18 of his 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

The Coyotes weathered a big second half run from the Bison, who cut it to six, but could get no closer as Flack scored six straight points to put the game out of reach.

The 76-66 win was USD’s first in Fargo since 2002.

I talked with Coyotes head coach Craig Smith about last week’s split and this week’s match-ups with Fort Wayne and South Dakota State:

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