Nate Tibbetts flashes his stuff in Saturday’s Coyote victory

Nate Tibbetts flashes his stuff in Saturday's Coyote victory Quick starts, matched with strong defense and solid field goal shooting have been key attributes as The University of South Dakota men's basketball team has opened the North Central Conference season with consecutive home victories.

Like in their 80-57 win over Minnesota State, Mankato Dec. 8, the Coyotes (7-1, 2-0 in the NCC) jumped to a large halftime lead (41-23) Dec. 9 and rode that margin to a 74-56 win over previously unbeaten St. Cloud State (7-1, 1-1 in the NCC) in the DakotaDome.

USD senior guard Nate Tibbetts had his best game this season as he hit all six of his field goals and scored 15 points to go with 10 assists, three steals and two rebounds. Time and time again he drove to the basket for a score or found an open teammate as the Coyotes found openings in the St. Cloud State defense and built their lead.

In both wins this weekend, the visitors scored the opening basket of the game before the Coyotes went on an offensive surge. After St. Cloud State took a 2-0 lead, the Coyotes surged back and took an 11-6 lead when junior guard Paul Marshall hit a 3-pointer with 14:33 to play in the opening half. Another jumper by Marshall, who had 11 of his game high 18 points in the first half, gave USD a 19-11 lead at the 11:37 mark of the opening half.

A basket by senior forward Jason Barrow, a 3-pointer by junior forward Eric Hickenbottom and a jumper by senior forward Jeremy Kudera moved the Coyote lead to 28-13 with 7:06 left in the half. The Coyotes, who shot 62.5 percent (15-of-24) in the opening stanza, continued to apply offensive pressure and gained a 41-23 lead when Tibbetts scored on a layup in the closing seconds of the first half.

St. Cloud State struggled in the half as they hit only 10 of 29 (.345) field goals and were a porous two of 14 (.143) from 3-point range.

USD upped the margin to 48-25 at the 17:21 mark of the second half when Marshall hit another jump shot which was followed by a tip-in from junior forward Jimmie Foster off his own miss to give the Coyotes a 50-27 lead with 16:03 left to play.

But St. Cloud State did not come into this game unbeaten by happenstance; they showed their mettle by taking off on a 13-3 run to pull within 53-40 at the 11:19 mark when Rado Rancik, who did not score in the first half, scored two of his 15 second-half points. At that point, the Coyotes steadied themselves and took off on a 12-2 run of their own, moving the lead to 72-47 with 3:53 when Foster scored on a layup off a brilliant feed from Tibbetts.

From that point, the teams traded baskets with Marshall adding the final points of the game on a steal and layup with 12 seconds left in the game.

Overall, the Coyotes were 27 of 50 (.540) from the field, five of 15 (.333) from 3-point range and 15 of 24 (.625) from the free throw line. Meanwhile, St. Cloud State hit just 23 of 59 (.390) field goals, and were just four of 24 (.167) from 3-point range. They hit six of 10 (.600) free throws.

Besides Marshall and Tibbetts, the Coyotes received 14 points and 10 rebounds from Kudera and 10 points each from Barrow and Foster, who also had eight boards. The Coyotes had 12 steals and three blocked shots.

St. Cloud State, who won the rebound battle 34-33 also received 11 points from Jonny Reese. The Huskies committed 23 turnovers and 22 fouls.

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