USD alone in first in NCC at 7-2 after road sweep South Dakota recorded a big road sweep last week with a 78-74 win over St. Cloud State Friday followed by a 93-91 overtime verdict over Minnesota State Saturday. The Coyotes, who entered the trip after winning at Morningside, improved to 15-3 and a first-place North Central Conference mark of 7-2. USD is home this week against Nebraska-Omaha Friday and Northern Colorado Saturday. North Dakota State is second in the league at 6-3. Three teams are tied for third at 5-4 (North Dakota, Minnesota State, Augustana).
The Coyotes led St. Cloud State, 41-25, at halftime and held a 21-point cushion at 52-31 with 14 minutes left in the game. However, the Huskies rallied and closed the deficit to 74-72 with 1:11 left and 76-74 with 19 seconds remaining. USD managed to hold on after one of two free throws each by Joey James and Ben Ries.
South Dakota shot well hitting 53.8 percent. USD had a balanced offense with five players in double scoring figures led by Jeremy Kudera's career-high 19 points. Anestis Tsakalaidis had his best game as a Coyote with 15 points on six-of-nine shooting and three-of-three free throws. Kory Petzenhauser tallied 13 points and five assists, followed by Ben Ries with 12 points and Nathan Blessen with 10. St. Cloud State, which shot 46.9 percent, outrebounded the Coyotes, 34-28. Kudera paced USD with eight boards.
Like St. Cloud State, the Coyotes held a sizeable lead against Minnesota State as well. USD took a 40-30 margin at halftime and with 7:09 left in the game the Coyotes opened up a 13-point spread at 68-55. But, the Mavericks chipped away and finally grabbed a 74-73 lead with 58 seconds remaining. Minnesota State made it 76-73 with a pair of three throws with 32 seconds showing, before USD forced overtime at 76-76 on a three-point field goal by Ries with 20 seconds left. The game remained close in the second half. The Coyotes managed two four-point leads with the last being 92-88 with nine seconds remaining. The Mavericks hit a three-pointer, but Ries connected on one of two free throws with two seconds left for the win.
USD again had good balance. Blessen led with 20 points with 16 apiece for Kudera and James. Jason Barrow had a Coyote personal high of 15 points and Ries tossed in 14. The Coyotes, who shot 50 percent, were outrebounded, 40-36. Barrow and James led with eight rebounds apiece. In the two games with St. Cloud State and Minnesota State, the Coyotes were 21 of 46 from three-point range, including 14 of 27 against the Mavericks. All of Ries' field goals (six) came from three-point range, while James was 5-for-8 from beyond the arc against Minnesota State.