Coyotes No. 2 seed in region tourney

Coyotes No. 2 seed in region tourney The South Dakota men's basketball team will be making their eighth appearance in post-season play when the Coyotes compete in the North Central Region Tournament to be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 9-11 in Denver, CO, hosted by Metropolitan State.

The Coyotes are the number-two seed and will take on the winner of Wayne State and St. Cloud State Friday at 6:30 p.m. Metro State, the top-seed, will face the winner of South Dakota State and North Dakota Friday at 8:30 p.m. The championship game is slated for Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

The North Central Region winner will face the Northeast Region champion in the first-round of the NCAA Division II Elite Eight Tournament to be held March 22-25 in Louisville, KY.

South Dakota finished the regular-season as the North Central Conference champions for the second straight year with a 13-5 record. The Coyotes enter the region field with a 22-5 record � the school's eighth 20-win campaign in 12 years.

The Coyotes, who own an all-time post-season record of 14-6, look to break out of a three-game losing streak. After falling to St. Cloud State Feb. 26, USD suffered back-to-back home setbacks last Friday and Saturday to South Dakota State (83-77) and Augustana (70-67).

USD led South Dakota State by 9 points in the first half at 28-19 at the 7:51 mark, but the Jackrabbits came back for a 38-37 halftime advantage. In the second half neither team led by more than 5 points until the final score. USD held leads of 5 points three times early in the second half but SDSU stayed close.

The Jackrabbits took the lead for good at 64-63 with 7:22 remaining, and managed to hold off the Coyotes, who cut the deficit to 78-77 with 1:22 left.

The Coyotes shot 38.1 percent compared to 47.0 for SDSU and USD missed 11 free throws (22-for-33). In addition, the Coyotes were outrebounded, 46-34.

Nathan Blessen paced USD with 27 points. Jeremy Kudera had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Jason Barrow notched 12 points and nine rebounds. Nate Tibbetts, who set the NCC single-season assist record for the weekend with 164, finished with 6 points, five steals and eight assists. Ben Ries added 6 points.

The same scenario followed the Coyotes into the Augustana game. USD shot 39.3 percent to the Vikings' 40.4, and the Coyotes missed 10 free throws going 21-for-31. USD was also outrebounded, 40-34.

Augustana took a 33-30 halftime lead and remained on top for most of the second half. The Coyotes came back and assumed a 5-point margin at 58-53 with 7:34 showing. However, the Vikings quickly tied the game and took the lead for good at 59-58 with 5:40 to play.

The Coyotes were down 68-67 with 40 seconds remaining before Augustana sealed its first win in the Dome since 1991 with a pair of free throws.

Blessen led the Coyotes with 16 points and seven rebounds. Barrow had 14 points and six boards, while Ries tallied 10 points. Kudera and Tibbetts each finished with 9 points.

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