CEDAR CITY, UT – Down by seven with 5:58 remaining, the South Dakota men's basketball team made a furious run, but came up just short as Southern Utah's Jackson Stevenett hit two free throws with 18 seconds left giving SUU a 62-60 victory Saturday evening.
With the loss, the Coyotes fell to 7-14 on the year and 2-10 in the Summit League. Southern Utah improved to 12-10 overall and 7-5 in league play.
The Coyotes had one last chance with 2.4 seconds left as sophomore Steve Tecker (Brule, WI) threw the baseball pass from the baseline to sophomore Trevor Gruis (Ellsworth, MN), who looked as if he was being held by a SUU defender, but no call was made. The ball went out of play as time expired.
Senior Louie Krogman (White River, SD) had a good look at a triple with six seconds remaining, but it rimmed out forcing the Coyotes to foul Stevenett who hit the charity tosses.
A big steal and thunderous dunk by senior Charlie Westbrook (Milwaukee, WS) brought the Coyotes within 59-57 with 1:55 left. Westbrook then followed with a hoop and harm foul on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 59 with 1:21 left. Westbrook made the free throw for the old-fashion three-point play for the 19th lead change and a 60-59 Coyote lead.
The Coyotes were led by 19 points from Krogman who was 7 of 16 from the field and 3 of 7 from beyond the arc. He was 2 of 2 from the line. Westbrook tallied 16 points including 12 in the second half as the only Coyotes in double figures.
SUU was led by 19 points from Ramell Taylor who went 9 of 18 from the field. Stevenett, who was a Coyote killer in the first meeting, tallied 15 points, while Ray Jones, Jr., chipped in 13 points. Stevenett tallied a game-high 26 points Dec. 28 in Vermillion, in an 81-75 overtime win.
For the game, the Coyotes shot 39.3 percent on 22 of 56. They were 6 of 20 from beyond the arc and 10 of 16 from the line. Southern Utah shot 51 percent for the game on 26 of 51 from the field. It was 0 of 4 from range and 10 of 17 from the line. The Thunderbirds were the first team to not make a triple against South Dakota this season.
Unlike the fast start by the Coyotes Thursday at Oral Roberts, South Dakota struggled in the early going Saturday as it started 1 for 6 and two turnovers for just two points, while SUU began 3 for 9 from the field for a 6-2 lead through the first four minutes and change.
A triple from Krogman gave the Coyotes their first lead at 9-8 with 13:35 remaining in the first half. Krogman's second triple tied the game at 12 with 10:30 remaining as the Coyotes began the game just 4 of 16 from the field and 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.
Krogman, with the "and-one" in transition, brought the Coyotes within 16-15 with 8:13 remaining in the half as both teams continued to struggle from the field and plagued by turnovers. Both teams were a combined 12 of 39 from the field with a combined 10 turnovers through the first 13 minutes.
Junior Allen Saint-Gelais (Guadeloupe, France) gave the Coyotes their second lead of the game at 18-16 out of a media timeout. Krogman nailed his third triple of the game as time expired in the first half for a 28-28 score.
For the half, the Coyotes were led by Krogman with a game-high 12 points courtesy of 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and 4 of 8 from the field. He was the lone Coyote in double figures as no other Coyote had more than five points. As a team, USD shot 10 of 30 from the field after starting 3 of 14. It was 5 of 14 from beyond the arc and 3 of 3 from the line.
Southern Utah was led by 10 points from Taylor, who had two dunks in the final two minutes of the half. The Thunderbirds shot 13 of 30 from the field and were 0 of 2 from beyond the arc to go along with 2 of 4 from the line. SUU held a 23-15 lead in rebounds.
A hoop-and-harm foul on Krogman and a jumper in the lane by Krogman gave the Coyotes a 33-29 lead early in the second half. A nice pass from Krogman to junior Jordan Boots (Vermillion) for a triple swelled the Coyote lead to 37-31 with 17:30 left, forcing SUU to call a timeout for the Coyotes' largest lead of the game.
Taylor gave the Thunderbirds their first lead of the half on a drive to the bucket with 14 minutes left, but Krogman came right back with a floater in the lane for a 42-41 Coyote lead with 13:30 left.
A hoop and harm foul on sophomore Trevor Gruis (Ellsworth, MN) ended a scoring drought of just under four minutes for the Coyotes as they pulled within 57-53 with 5:37 left. It was just the second field goal of the game for Gruis.
The Coyotes have a week to prepare as UMKC visits the DakotaDome Saturday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m., following the women's game versus UMKC.