A year ago, the South Dakota men's basketball team won the Summit League regular season title for the first time, despite losing three times during the first half of the conference schedule.

In 2018, the Coyotes (17-5/5-1) are looking to finish the first half with just a single loss, and if they do, they'll share the lead heading into the second half of the schedule.

But that victory won't come easy as USD hosts the hottest team in the Summit League - South Dakota State - winners of eight straight.

The Jackrabbits (17-5/5-0) bring the conference's top offense (92 points per game) into Wednesday night's (January 24) match-up. SDSU has three of the league's top ten scorers (Mike Daum, David Jenkins Jr., and Reed Tellinghuisen) - who are averaging a collective 68 points per game. All five South Dakota State starters are shooting 50 percent or better from the field this season.

Jenkins, a freshman, has scored 54 points (including eight three-pointers) in his last two games on 63 percent shooting.

SDSU is the top three-point and free throw shooting team in the conference, hitting in double digits in four straight games from behind the arc, six of their last seven overall, while shooting 89 percent from the free throw line.

The Jacks also take care of the ball better than any team in the Summit, committing the fewest turnovers per game.

Daum is also the Summit's leading rebounder.

The South Dakota State defense has also been tough, holding opponents to a league-low 44 percent from the floor.

Tipoff is 7:00 PM, Wednesday in Vermillion.

Saturday (January 27), the Coyotes travel to Denver to open the second half of the Summit League schedule.

The Pioneers (8-12/2-4 Summit League) are coming in off of their best shooting performance of the conference schedule, 57 percent, in a nine-point win at Oral Roberts.

In that game, DU got 20 points off the bench from Daniel Amigo on 9-of-12 shooting. Amigo had 17 points (8-of-12) in an 11-point loss to USD to start conference play.

In that game, the Pioneers got four three-pointers from Jake Pemberton, who is shooting 57 percent in his last two games.

The Coyotes shot 58 percent in the first half of that December game in Denver. Mooney led all scorers with 20 points. Tristan Simpson added 17 points for USD.

Tipoff is 5:00 PM, Saturday in Denver.

Last Wednesday (January 17), the Coyotes overcame a slow start to beat Oral Roberts 82-70.

The Golden Eagles scored the first six points of the game, but USD came storming back with ten straight points thanks to full court pressure which forced three early ORU turnovers. The South Dakota defense finished the game with 17 forced turnovers leading to 20 points.

The Coyotes closed out the first half with a 17-7 run to take a 12 point lead at intermission. USD shot 58 percent from the floor in the first half and attempted 15 free throws compared to just two for Oral Roberts. On the night, the Coyotes outscored ORU 21-6 at the charity stripe.

The Golden Eagles shot the ball well in the second half, connecting on 56 percent of their shots, but could get no closer than ten points as Matt Mooney scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the second 20 minutes.

Mooney was one of five Coyotes to score in double figures.

Saturday (January 20), Tyler Hagedorn provided the early offensive spark in an 85-71 win at Omaha.

Hagedorn scored ten of the Coyotes' first 14 points and finished with 25 points to lead all scorers, as USD shot 54 percent in the first half, leading by 18 at intermission.

The Mavericks shot 52 percent in the second half to cut the lead to eight, with Zach Jackson getting 11 of 18 points in the second 20 minutes.

But South Dakota responded with a 12-2 run to put the game away. Matt Mooney was 4-of-5 from the floor in the second half, scoring 10 of his 17 points.

USD outscored UNO by 13 at the free throw line and scored 17 points off of a dozen Omaha turnovers.

I talked with Coyotes head coach Craig Smith about last week's sweep and the match-ups with South Dakota State and Denver:

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