Coyotes heading for region tournament in Wayne, NE

Coyotes heading for region tournament in Wayne, NE South Dakota, which captured its third North Central Conference mens basketball championship this decade with a 14-4 record, carries a 22-5 overall record into the NCAA Division II North Central Region Tournament that opens in Wayne, NE March 4-6.

The Coyotes will meet Mesa State Thursday in the first-round. The winner of that game plays number-two seed Metro State Friday. Number-one seed Wayne State will take on the winner of Nebraska-Kearney/Northern State.

The Coyotes are appearing in their first post-season tournament since the 1993-94 season when USD reached the NCAA Elite Eight National Tournament for the second straight year.

The Coyotes concluded the regular-season with a road split Feb. 26-27. Friday in Brookings, USD fell to South Dakota State, 69-66. The Coyotes bounced back Saturday in Sioux Falls with an 82-76 victory.

South Dakota shot 51.0 percent against Augustana, including 58.3 in the second half. After taking a 35-27 halftime lead, the Coyotes moved on top by 14 points at 48-34. Augustana rallied and closed the deficit to 61-57 with 6:38 left in the game.

That was as close as the Vikings would come as South Dakota notched its 22nd win for the fourth time in 11 years.

The Coyotes, who hit 24 of 30 free throws, were led by Jason Barrow's 21 points and 8 rebounds. Barrow was 6-for-7 from the field and 9-for-13 from the charity stripe. Nathan Blessen and Jeremy Kudera had 17 points apiece.

Ben Ries had 8 points, followed by Nate Tibbetts with 6 and 5 apiece for Kory Petzenhauser and Joey James.

Augustana shot 44.8 percent and outrebounded the Coyotes, 33-27.

South Dakota State opened quickly against the Coyotes and took a 42-33 halftime advantage. USD came back in the second half and outscored the Jackrabbits, 33-27. The Coyotes finally knotted the game at 66-66 with 2:22 left on a pair of free throws by Ries.

After SDSU moved on top, 69-66, on free throws, the Coyotes missed a shot at the buzzer when Ries' 3-point attempt glanced off the rim.

South Dakota shot 46.9 percent and committed 19 turnovers. Ries led USD with 16 points. Blessen had 13, followed by Anestis Tsakalaidis with 12 and 11 for Petzenhauser. Kudera had 8 points and paced the Coyotes with 6 rebounds. USD, which was 8-for-22 from three-point range, was outrebounded, 33-27.

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