Coyotes claim conference title

Coyotes claim conference title The South Dakota men's basketball team will host South Dakota State Friday and Augustana Saturday.

The Coyotes enter the regular-season finale as the North Central Conference champions for the second straight season and fourth league crown since 1993.

USD clinched a share of the conference title last Friday in Mankato, MN with a 78-55 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato. Saturday in St. Cloud, MN, the Coyotes fell to St. Cloud State, 80-78. Despite the setback, USD claimed the league crown outright after North Dakota lost to South Dakota State.

The Coyotes are 22-3 overall and 13-3 in the NCC. North Dakota and South Dakota State are tied for second at 10-6.

In USD's win over Minnesota State-Mankato, the Coyotes were simply too much for the Mavericks � both offensively and defensively. USD shot 55.4 percent and held MSU-Mankato to 30.9. After taking a 32-25 halftime lead, the Coyotes broke the game open in the second half by shooting 67.9 percent. USD opened with a 24-10 scoring run for a 21-point advantage at 56-35 with 12:23 remaining.

Leading the Coyotes was Nathan Blessen, who tossed in 22 points and he grabbed seven rebounds. Jeremy Kudera had 18 points and Ben Ries finished with 17. Jason Barrow had 7 points, while Nate Tibbetts delivered 12 assists and three steals to go with his 5 points. The Coyotes were 13 of 22 from 3-point range led by Ries, who was 5-for-7.

South Dakota trailed St. Cloud State, 38-34, at halftime after coming back from a 12-point deficit at 28-16 at the 7:31 mark. In the second half, the Coyotes continued their surge and eventually took their biggest margin at 45-39 with 16:20 to play. The game remained close and USD continued to hold the upper-hand until the Huskies went on top, 69-67, with 4:29 left. The Coyotes never regained the lead and fell behind by seven at 76-69 with 1:43 showing.

The Coyotes had four players in double scoring figures. Kudera was tops with 21 points and Ries notched 20. They each had five 3-point field goals. Blessen and Barrow had 13 points apiece, while Tibbetts finished with 7 points, 10 assists and three steals. USD shot 45.5 percent compared to 47.3 for the Huskies. The Coyotes were outrebounded, 37-30, led by Barrow's nine boards.

Tibbetts racked up 22 assists against MSU-Mankato and St. Cloud State which pushed his season total to 198 � breaking the single-season record of 197 set by John Hemenway in 1994-95. Tibbetts also has 150 assists in North Central Conference play � six short of the league record held by North Dakota State's David Ryles in 1987.

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