Coyotes bounce UND in Great West opener

There's grinding out a win, and then there's overcoming a 29-percent shooting performance.

Especially in a league game against your rival.

Yet, that's exactly what the University of South Dakota men's basketball team did Saturday.

Playing in their first-ever Great West Conference game, the Coyotes used 27 points from senior Roman Gentry and a late spurt to defeat rival North Dakota 74-64 on Saturday night in the DakotaDome.

Still, it wasn't the most effective performance.

USD (9-8, 1-0), which won its third-straight Division I game, shot 16-of-55 – 29.1 percent – from the field and 6-of-23 on three-pointers.

"It was a horrible night offensively," head coach Dave Boots said. "Defensively, we won a game. It wasn't because of our offense, that's for sure. Their defense caused a lot of it; they contested shots and took everything away inside."

And on a night when the shots weren't falling, Gentry picked up the slack – especially at the free throw line.

Gentry, a transfer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, hit 16-of-18 foul shots to score a game-high 27 points. Though he was just 5-of-19 from the field, he scored nine points in the final 4:44 when USD started to pull away.

"I try to get to the rim as much as I can," said the Sioux City, IA, native, who has reached double figures in 10 straight games. "It's about being aggressive when I can see a lane and going hard to the hoop."

After leading 32-30 at halftime, the Coyotes fell behind 52-49 after UND's Travis Bledsoe hit a free throw with 5:44 to play. And if there was a turning point in the contest, it came at that moment.

With his team down by two points, USD sophomore Louie Krogman drained a clutch three-pointer with 5:08 to play, giving the Coyotes a 53-52 lead. That shot helped spark a 12-0 USD run, which also included a three-pointer by freshman Jake Thomas at the 2:46 mark.

At that point, the Coyotes led 61-52 and the game was all but decided.

"We didn't have a lot of them, but those were two crucial ones at the right time," Boots said of the two three-pointers during the spurt.

Over the final 2:01, the Coyotes would hit 13 of 14 free throws as the Sioux (3-14, 1-1) were trying anything they could to cut into the margin.

Included in the final two minutes were a pair of technical fouls on UND players for hard fouls ¬– proof of the physical, rugged play by the long-time rivals. Though the two plays didn't seem outwardly intentional, the intensity was evident.

"We didn't finish inside at all," Boot said. "We did a nice job being aggressive and trying to get looks underneath. To get that many free throw attempts means you were aggressive."

For a third-straight game, USD senior Tyler Cain recorded a double-double, with 12 points and 16 rebounds. Krogman added 16 points off the bench, while Thomas had 12 points.

Against a Sioux team that utilized a persistent zone defense that earned UND its first Great West win last Thursday at Utah Valley, the Coyotes were able to overcome a rough shooting night.

"It was one of those nights where it was like there was a lid on the basket," Cain said. "But we fed off our defense. We made key stops and hit some big shots off that momentum."

After winning three of four games during its homestand, USD will hit the road for five straight games — four against league foes. The trip begins Thursday night at Utah Valley in Orem, Utah.

"It'll be nice to get these road games out of the way early," Cain said. "Hopefully we can pick up a few wins."

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