Summit League Preview: South Dakota Men Host NDSU, Fort Wayne
The South Dakota men's basketball team waited the better part of three decades for a true basketball venue to call home, and this week they need their new home court advantage more than ever.
Week three of the Summit League schedule finds two of the conference's top teams paying a visit to the Sanford Coyote Sports Center in Vermillion, where USD has yet to lose (8-0).
North Dakota State, the lone unbeaten team in league play after two weeks, is in Wednesday night.
The Bison (11-5/3-0) are led by pre-season All-Summit League players Paul Miller and Dexter Werner. Miller leads the team in scoring (14 points per game), while Werner is NDSU's top sub, averaging 11 points and eight rebounds a game while hitting 65 percent of his shots. Guard AJ Jacobson has scored in double figures in four of his last five games.
The Bison have the stingiest defense in the conference, allowing opponents just 67 points per game. They also turn the ball over less than any other Summit League team, and get to the free throw line most often.
Tipoff is 7:00 PM, Wednesday in Vermillion.
Week three concludes with the pre-season favorite to repeat as Summit League regular season champs, Fort Wayne.
The Mastodons (14-4/3-1) begin the week in a three-way tie for second in the conference with USD and Western Illinois.
Fort Wayne pulled off one of the biggest upsets in all of college basketball when they upset Indiana, in overtime, November 22. They have been red hot on offense, scoring more than 90 points in five of their last six games, topping 100 points four times this season.
They are led by pre-season All-Summit League guard John Konchar. The sophomore led the conference in rebounding last season and is second this season. Guards Mo Evans and Bryson Scott are both among the top five best scorers in the conference.
Tipoff is 1:00 PM, Saturday in Vermillion.
South Dakota (12-7/3-1) has matched its best Summit League start ever, thanks to a pair of wins last week.
At Denver, the Coyotes were without Tyler Flack (knee) for the second straight game, which gave Austin Sparks a chance to start, and he responded with a perfect night from the floor and eight points in 25 minutes.
Matt Mooney continued his hot shooting, with a trio of three-pointers in the first half to give USD a three-point lead at the break. Mooney finished the night with 23 points, ad the Coyote defense clamped down late, limiting the Pioneers to just 2-of-9 from the floor over the final 6:30 in a 75-69 win.
Back home Saturday against IUPUI, USD dug themselves out of an early 10-2 hole, by scoring 13 straight, en route to their best shooting performance of the season (57%), and a 85-74 win.
Carlton Hurst led the Coyotes with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Mooney and Trey Burch-Manning each added 16. Triston Simpson came in off the bench for 12 points, while Tyler Hagedorn, playing for Sparks who got into early four trouble, scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes.
I talked with Coyotes head coach Craig Smith about last week's win and this week's games with NDSU and Fort Wayne: