Strong conference play leads USD men to basketball victory

Strong conference play leads USD men to basketball victory
The University of South Dakota men's basketball opened up a three-game North Central Conference road swing with a 93-78 victory at Nebraska-Omaha. The win was the 10th straight for the Coyotes, who improved to 14-4 on the season and stayed perfect in league play with a 3-0 mark. UNO fell to 10-7 overall and 1-2 in the NCC with the loss.

The 10-game winning streak is the longest for the program since an 11-game stretch in 2004-05. It is also just the 11th time in school history USD has strung together a winning spree of at least 10 games, and the eighth occurrence under head coach Dave Boots. It was also the Coyotes 10th consecutive victory coming by at least 10 points, which is just the second time in the history of the school that has occurred, and the first time since the 1957-58 National Championship squad won 13 straight games by double digits.

Sophomore swingman Dylan Grimsley (Sioux City, IA) led all players with 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 9-of-11 makes at the free throw line. Grimsley, who played all 40 minutes in the game, also added six rebounds while swiping a USD season-best six steals.

Four other Coyotes reached double digits in scoring, with junior forward Eric Hall (Huron) also surpassing the 20-point plateau with a 21-point effort. Hall, who made 9-of-10 chances at the free throw line, also added seven rebounds in 38 minutes of play. Junior guard Dustin Little (Castlewood) just missed his season-high in scoring with 17 points, but did establish a season-best in rebounding by grabbing a game-high nine boards.

Sophomore guard Mitch Begeman (Sioux Falls) came off the bench to pour in 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including making 3-of-6 from three-point range. Sophomore center Steve Smith (Sioux Falls) was the fifth Coyote in double digits by going for 12 points along with grabbing seven rebounds. Freshman forward Tyler Cain (Rochester, MN) added seven rebounds and four blocked shots for South Dakota.

The Mavericks were led in scoring by senior guard Zac Robinson, who had 19 points and five rebounds. Senior forward Keith Price came off the bench to add 15 points and six rebounds for UNO.

South Dakota took advantage of 39 trips to the charity stripe to sink a season-high 31 free-throw chances. Conversely, the host Mavericks went to the line only 21 times, making 16 shots. USD owned a 41-37 advantage on the glass, and committed only eight turnovers while forcing 14 Nebraska-Omaha miscues.

USD jumped out of the gate with a quick 7-0 run over the first two minutes of play that forced a Maverick timeout. The Coyotes eventually stretched the lead to as many as 12 points, thanks to a 19-7 advantage held at the 12:08 mark.

However, UNO ripped off a 17-3 run over the next 4:30 of play to take its first lead of the night at 24-22 with 7:50 left on the clock in the first half. The Coyotes regained the lead moments later and held onto it the rest of the first period of play, taking a 36-32 advantage into the halftime break.

The Mavericks opened the second half with seven straight points on their first three possessions to regain the lead at 39-36 just 1:22 into play. USD answered back with a short 4-0 run following a timeout to retake a 40-39 lead, but that advantage was shortlived, as Nebraska-Omaha regained the lead shortly thereafter. The pair of mini-runs set up the next several minutes of play in which the two schools traded the lead.

Neither team enjoyed more than a four-point advantage throughout the first 12 minutes of the second half, as the two schools exchanged the lead six times and featured three additional ties in that time. South Dakota eventually went ahead by six on a strong inside move by Grimsley to make the score 69-63 with 7:10 remaining, which forced a Maverick timeout.

The USD defense stiffened late in the half by allowing just one field goal in a four-minute stretch as its offense continued to put points on the board, swelling the lead to a dozen points with 3:42 left on the clock at 79-67. Nebraska-Omaha unveiled a full-court press at that point and was able to close to within eight points, but South Dakota was able to make enough of its free throws down the stretch to clinch its 10th consecutive victory.

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