USD men reclaim first place with win For most of the 2000-01 season, No. 6 ranked South Dakota has scored points in bunches, utilizing their strong perimeter game with solid inside play. But last weekend, the Coyotes had trouble finding the basket.
Yet, the Coyotes (16-3, 9-2) fought through their problems and rebounded from a loss to South Dakota State on Jan. 26 to take a hard fought 81-67 North Central Conference men's basketball victory over Augustana (8-11, 2-9 in the NCC) at the DakotaDome.
For the second straight time against Augustana, both Coyote senior center Jason Barrow and junior forward Jimmie Foster had big games. Foster again totaled 22 points with seven rebounds while Barrow had a double double, scoring a season-high 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to go with three assists and two steals.
The victory, coupled with South Dakota State University's 83-82 setback to Morningside on Jan. 27, kept the Coyotes alone in first place in the NCC. The Coyotes won their ninth conference game of the season.
On Saturday night, the Coyotes jumped to a quick 8-2 lead after a lay-up by Barrow. A jumper by junior Eric Hickenbottom increased the lead to 10-4. Another score by Barrow moved the Coyotes' advantage to 16-7.
But the Vikings fought back, pulling within 16-13 when Cody Levinson, who scored 15 points on the night, hit a 3-point basket. The game remained tight for the remainder of the opening half as the Vikings' defense stiffened and the Coyotes had trouble scoring.
An inside score by Steve Anderson gave South Dakota a 22-19 lead. Then after the Viking's Sean Hilgenberg hit a 3-pointer to give Augustana a 25-24 lead, junior shooting guard Paul Marshall answered with a 3-point basket to give the Coyotes the lead (27-25).
Brian Elwer scored inside for the Vikings to tie the game before Anderson hit a pair of foul shots for a 29-27 Coyote lead with 42 seconds left in the half. But, Justin Vortherms tied the game at 29-29 by putting back a missed shot with two seconds to play. For the first time all season, the Coyotes went into the locker room tied.
In the opening half, the Coyotes connected on just 10 of 22 shots for 45.5 percent and hit just one of five 3-point baskets. However, the Coyotes hit eight of 11 free throws for 72.7 percent. Barrow tallied 10 points to lead South Dakota in the first half. Augustana hit 12 of 26 field goals for 46.2 percent and made three of six 3-point baskets and both of their free throws.
South Dakota came out on fire in the second half, jumping to a 39-29 lead after senior forward Jeremy Kudera, who had 9 points and 10 rebounds, scored inside. South Dakota increased the margin to 45-33 on a lay-up by Barrow.
A lay-up by Hilgenberg cut the lead to 45-37. The Coyotes answered back when Kudera scored inside and made a foul shot for a 50-39 lead. The Vikings cut the Coyote lead to 55-50 when Cody Levinson made a rare 4-point play. After nailing a 3-point basket, he was fouled and he subsequently hit the free throw. Augustana moved within 59-58 on a 3-point basket by David Homan.
But from that point on, the Coyotes gradually increased their lead, which was largely the result of Foster scoring on drives to the basket or South Dakota working the ball inside to Barrow. The Coyotes opened up a 70-63 lead on a free throw by Foster. Then Marshall had 4 points on two foul shots and a lay-up as the Coyotes moved the margin to 74-63.
After a 3-point basket by the Vikings' Shane Burnison, the Coyotes used a foul shot by Foster and two free throws by Kudera to work the lead to 77-66 with 58 seconds to play. Two foul shots by Foster and one by Travis James closed out the 81-67 Coyote victory.
South Dakota hit 23 of 47 field goals for 48.9 percent, but had season lows in 3-point baskets made (3) and attempted (12). However, the Coyotes had season highs in free throws made (32) and attempted (45). Marshall extended his streak of 3-point baskets to 19 games. He hit two of four 3-pointers and tallied 12 points. However, Kudera's 3-point streak came to an end. He missed both of his 3-point baskets. Nate Tibbetts had 4 points and eight assists in another solid floor game. Hickenbottom finished with 8 points, including six of six from the foul line. South Dakota won the rebound battle, 39-34.
Meanwhile, Augustana hit just 22 of 58 field goals for 37.9 percent. They were eight of 22 from 3-point range for 36.4 percent and hit 15 of 23 free throws for 65.2 percent. Hilgenberg led the Vikings with 16 points and nine rebounds. Burnison added 13 points.