USD men upend Denver in Summit League opener

University of South Dakota senior center Trevor Gruis (50) goes up for a basket over the outstretched arms of Denver’s Chris Udofia. Gruis notched his 13th collegiate double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, in leading the Coyotes to a 59-54 win against Denver Saturday at the DakotaDome in the Summit League opener for both teams.  (Photo by David Lias)

University of South Dakota senior center Trevor Gruis (50) goes up for a basket over the outstretched arms of Denver’s Chris Udofia. Gruis notched his 13th collegiate double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, in leading the Coyotes to a 59-54 win against Denver Saturday at the DakotaDome in the Summit League opener for both teams.
(Photo by David Lias)

By Jeremy Hoeck

jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

The first Summit League game of the season is in the books as a win for the University of South Dakota men, but it was anything but easy.

A win is a win, though.

“Home court in this league is huge,” said senior Trevor Gruis, who scored a season-best 19 points as USD held off Denver 59-54 in Saturday’s conference opener at the DakotaDome.

“It’s a great win for our team; helps all the guys.”

In defeating the preseason No. 2 Pioneers, the Coyotes (6-9) won their third straight game thanks to a season-high 57 percent shooting.

Ultimately, though, the game was won on the defensive end for USD — which held Denver to 38 percent shooting for the game.

“They just dug in. They didn’t want this thing to slip out of their hands,” USD interim head coach Joey James said.

It was a more exciting finish than it needed to be, as the Coyotes saw a 10-point lead with under six minutes left to get whittled down to 57-54 with 1:04 left.

USD struggled late against a backcourt press, which was naturally a sign of concern after the game.

“It became a point to where we started becoming non-aggressive, almost like we were trying not to lose the game,” James said.

“You’ve got to continue putting pressure on those guys.”

The Pioneers (7-9) missed a game-tying three-pointer with 21 seconds left, and junior Brandon Bos hit two foul shots with 12.5 remaining for the Coyotes.

From there, the third consecutive victory was in hand.

“Any time you can get a winning streak, it gives our guys a lot of confidence going forward,” said Bos, who added 15 points.

“Conference games are cruical, so it was a great win for us.”

Gruis nearly single-handedly carried the Coyotes in the first half, scoring half (6) of their field goals, and nearly half of their points (16) and rebounds (5).

USD shot 63 percent in the opening half — Denver shot 50 percent — to build a 34-31 lead at the break.

The Pioneers, though, were just 6-of-23 from the field in the second half, for 26 percent.

“We got stops. We won the game on stops,” Gruis said. “We just got stops in the second half that we sometimes struggle to get here at home.”

Up next for USD is a Thursday night home game with IUPUI (5-14), which lost its first two league games.

 

You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at www.yankton.net.

 

DENVER (7-9)

 

Dom Samac 1-3 0-0 2, Chris Udofia 3-9 4-7 10, Jalen Love 3-8 3-4 9, Brett Olson 7-12 4-4 22, Cam Griffin 1-1 0-2 2, Bryant Rucker 1-6 0-0 3, Nate Engesser 0-0 0-0 0, Marcus Byrd 2-8 0-0 6. TOTALS: 18-47 11-17 54.

 

SOUTH DAKOTA (6-9)

 

Tyler Flack 4-4 0-0 8, Karim Rowson 2-4 2-4 7, Trevor Gruis 7-12 5-7 19, Trey Norris 2-4 0-0 4, Brandon Bos 4-7 5-6 15, Adam Thoseby 0-0 2-2 2, Casey Kasperbauer 0-3 0-0 0, Tavian Pomlee 0-0 0-0 0, Eric Robertson 1-1 0-0 2, Tyler Larson 1-2 0-0 2. TOTALS: 21-37 14-19 59.

 

At the half: SD 34, DU 31. Three-Pointers: DU 7-24 (Olson 4-6, Byrd 2-6, Rucker -14, Samac 0-2, Udofia 0-3, Love 0-3), SD 3-8 (Bos 2-3, Rowson 1-1, Norris 0-1, Kasperbauer 0-3). Rebounds: SD 29 (Gruis 10), DU 21 (Udofia 6). Personal Fouls: DU 18, SD 15. Assists: SD 14 (Norris 4), DU 8 (Udofia 3). Turnovers: SD 15, DU 7. Blocked Shots: DU 4 (Udofia 3), SD 2. Steals: DU 6 (Udofia 3), SD 4. Attendance: 1,506.

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