USD in regional finals after defeating Winona State 73-68 For the first time since the 1993-94 season, the 22nd-ranked and third-seeded South Dakota men's basketball team (27-5) advanced to the NCAA Division II Regional Finals March 13 by avenging its first loss of the season and defeating the seventh seed, Winona State (24-11), 73-68, at the Auraria Events Center in Denver, CO.
The Coyotes led the entire second half, but it wasn't a comfortable lead even when leading by as many as 12, 55-43 at the 12:57 mark in the second half.
Winona State cut the lead 65-64 on a three by Chad Barfknecht, his only points of the game at 4:04.
After three Coyote free throws, David Zellmann made a pair of free throws after pulling down an offensive rebound, to make the game, 68-66, at 1:51.
USD's senior Josh Mueller hit one of his biggest three-pointers of his career to put USD up five, 71-66, with 1:30 left to play. It was three of his 11 points on the night.
Zach Malvik scored a pair of free throws with 45 seconds remaining to make it a three-point game, 71-68.
The Warriors had three more chances at a three-pointer, but missed them all and true freshman Eric Hall, getting just the second start of his career, iced the game with two free throws of his own with 1.9 seconds left to advance the Coyotes to the Sweet 16.
"They had some good looks at the end, but we were able to survive," said USD head coach Dave Boots. "We had been on the other end of some of those situations this season, it was nice to be on the winning side."
Five players scored in double figures for South Dakota, who shot 50 percent (28-of-56) from the field and had 25 assists on its 28 field goals. The Coyotes made 42.9 percent (9-of-21) from three-point land, including 5-of-8 in the second half. At the line, USD was 8-of-13 (61.5 percent).
Junior Turner Trofholz scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds to lead USD in both categories, while passing out four assists. For the second night in a row, Trofholz scored the first basket of the game giving USD a 2-0 lead at 19:25.
"Winona State double down on me at times and that opened up our outside as Josh (Mueller), Luke (Tibbetts) and Dave (Nour) were able to hit some outside shots. Thus opening me up to score," said Trofholz of the Warriors defense.
Senior Luke Tibbetts played one of his best games of his career, tying his career-high with 17 points and adding seven assists. It was his ability to drive and dish that opened up the rest of the team and drew countless Warrior fouls.
Hall finished with a career-high 13 points, while pulling down five rebounds and junior David Nour had 11. For the second night in a row, Nour generated four steals.
In the first half, the teams traded leads with the Warriors going up by five, 18-13, on two accounts, the last when Zellmann scored two of his game-high 26 points at 13:49.
USD then went on a 9-0 run to the 11:37 mark to lead 22-18 on a three by Mueller.
Winona State came back and took a lead of three, 30-27, at 6:42 on a lay-up by Zellmann. The Coyotes then took an 11-4 run into the locker room to lead, 41-33.
Three others besides Zellmann finished in double figures for Winona State, including 15 from Jonte Flowers and 11 each from John Smith and Malvik.
The Warrior shot 44.8 percent (26-of-60) from the field, including 8-of-23 (34.8 percent) from three-point range. Winona State, who outrebounded USD, 41-25, including a 13-2 advantage in offensive boards, shot 72.7 percent (8-of-11) at the free throw line.
"This feels good, especially after being 2-4 after six games in the conference season, but we have been just taking things one game at a time," said Tibbetts.