Coyote men fall in regional finals

Coyote men fall in regional finals The 22nd-ranked and third-seeded South Dakota men's basketball team (27-6) had a solid shooting performance that was bettered by top-seeded and second-ranked Metro State Roadrunners (29-3) who defeated South Dakota 89-84 in the North Central Regional men's basketball finals before 1,752 people at the Auraria Events Center in Denver, CO, on March 15.

Two members of the South Dakota Coyotes squad were named to the All Tournament Squad, including Turner Trofholz, a junior from Schuyler, NE, and Josh Mueller, a senior from Hartford.

Trofholz ended the regional tournament with 87 points (29.0 ppg) and 27 rebounds (9.0 rpg), including 35-of-51 field goals (.686 percent). Mueller had 62 points (20.6 ppg), 13 assists (4.3 apg) and 12 rebounds (4.0 rpg). He made 16-of-39 field goals (41 percent), including 14-of-29 (48.2 percent) from three-point range.

The difference in the game was Metro State's torrid three-point shooting and a 12-point difference at the foul line. The Roadrunners hit 14-of-17 three-pointers for 82 percent, keyed by the performance of reserve guard Drew Williamson, who scored 18 points, including 6-of-6 from beyond the three-point line.

Williamson was averaging a little more than three points a game. At the charity stripe, the Roadrunners made 25-of-33 (84.6 percent) compared to 11-of-13 (84.6 percent) for the Coyotes.

With the loss, USD is now 2-1 in regional finals. The 27 wins by USD is a school-record and advancing to the regional final was accomplished for the first time since the 1993-94 season.

For the third time in as many games in the regional tournament, USD scored first, when Trofholz made a lay-up with 18:50 to play in the first half. Metro State answered and built a five-point lead, 12-7, at 15:54, after a three-pointer from Greg Muth.

The Coyotes then went on an 8-0 run, including a three-pointer from freshman Eric Hall, a lay-up from senior Luke Tibbetts and a trey from Mueller as USD re-established an advantage at 15-12 with 13:42 remaining in the half.

USD maintained its lead until the 2:26 mark in the first half when Williamson hit the first of his six three-pointers on the night, giving the Roadrunners a 34-33 lead. After a Coyote turnover, Williamson again connected from deep to give Metro State a 37-33 lead at the 1:11 mark.

USD responded quickly at the start of the second half as Hall, who made 4-of-6 from three point range on the night, knocked down a three-pointer at the 19:23 mark. Metro State would then score the next six points to take a 43-36 lead with 17:23 to play in the game.

USD stayed close until the 13:24 mark, when Williamson hit his fourth three-pointer of the night, to put Metro State up nine, 47-38. On USD's ensuing possession, Trofholz made an inside basket and after being fouled, converted the free throw to keep USD with 47-41 at the 12:35 mark of the second half.

The game was basically decided on a series of possessions in which both USD and Metro State matched three-pointers between the 8:31 mark and the 6:38 mark. Hall, David Nour and Mueller hit three-point field goals, which were matched on the other end by Metro State.

The Roadrunners increased the lead to 72-58 on a Ben Ortner jumper at 5:34.

The Coyotes clawed away at Metro State and were able to stay close. Mueller, who had seven three-point field goals for the third time this season, cut the final margin to 89-84 on a long, three-point field goal with 1.5 seconds to play.

The final shot and three-pointer by Mueller built his career total of made three-pointers to 307, which is the all-time mark at USD. Mueller leaves USD as the second all-time scorer with 1,971 points as well as the career assists and career steals leader. The loss also ended the careers of seniors Steve Anderson and Luke Tibbetts, both who have been major contributors to a team that set a school record for wins.

Anderson ranks second all-time in blocked shots (144) and fifth in career rebounds (755). Tibbetts, who overcame a major knee injury to return for his senior season and start the final 12 games of the season, ranks among the top-10 in career steals.

Against Metro State, Mueller led all scorers with 27 points, while Trofholz finished with his second straight double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds. Hall completed his freshman season with 12 points in the third start of his career.

USD shot 51.7 percent (30-of-58) from the field and 56.5 percent (13-of-23) from downtown. At the foul line, the Coyotes made 84.6 percent (11-of-13) and outrebounded the Roadrunners, 33-24, including 12 offensive boards.

Metro State was 25-of-46 (54.3 percent) from the field and an outstanding 14-of-17 (82.4 percent) from three-point range. They also made 25-of-33 (75.8 percent) from the free throw line as mentioned.

Michael Morse paced Metro State with 20 points, while Mark Worthington had 19. Williamson and Keith Borgan each finished with 18.

"We did a great job taking away their inside game and the outside shots they hit were contested," said USD head coach Dave Boots. "They are just an outstanding ball club."

The Coyotes, who lost their first game since Feb. 3, end their season with school-records for wins in a season (27), points in a season (2,742, 1989-90), three-point field goals in a season (276, 1998-99) and tied for most field goals in a season.

"I loved my time here as a Coyote and wouldn't have traded it for anything. This season was great, these players are great, I loved playing with them," said Mueller.

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