Two free throws with seven seconds remaining by sophomore Trevor Gruis (Ellsworth, Minn.) broke an 81-81 tie as the South Dakota men’s basketball team earned its first win of the season with a hard-fought 83-81 victory over visiting University of Nebraska-Omaha Sunday afternoon at the DakotaDome. With the win, the Coyotes improved to 1-2 on the year, while UNO fell to 1-3.
“I thought our guys made a couple of plays at the end to win it,” South Dakota head men’s basketball coach Dave Boots said. “It was very disappointing to be in that position after leading by eight at halftime and get outscored 10 of 11 times to start the second half. Our man-to-man defense was not good. Our matchup helped us when we went to it – at least it stopped the bleeding and we came up with some stops. I thought our young guys, Nim (Hilliard) and Brandon (Bos), created some offense for us which allowed us to play Charlie (Westbrook) and Louie (Krogman) off the ball a little more.”
With the win, Boots won his 599th career game and his 484th game as head coach of the Coyotes Sunday. Boots now is 599-262 in his 31st career season and is 484-199 in his 24th season at South Dakota.
The Coyotes were led by four players in double figures as senior Louie Krogman (White River, S.D.) had a team-high 16 points as he was 5 of 18 from the field, including 4 of 10 from beyond the arc and he knocked down two charity tosses. Senior Charlie Westbrook (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Gruis each had 15 points and junior Jordan Boots (Vermillion, S.D.) had 11 points off the bench as he was a perfect 5 for 5 from the field, including 1 for 1 from range. Sophomore Steve Tecker (Brule, Wis.) led the team with eight rebounds.
The Coyotes shot 43.5 percent from the field on 27 of 62. They were 8 of 23 from beyond the arc for 34.8 percent and were 21 of 28 from the foul line. They out-rebounded the Mavericks 45-38 and held a 5-1 lead in blocks with Gruis and senior Ricardo Andreotti (Sao Paulo, Brazil) each having two rejections.
“We certainly are a developing team,” Boots added. “We have a lot of work to do as I think our kids are working hard, we are just not hitting on all cylinders on both the offensive and defensive ends, we just have to clean some of those things up. Early in the year that is a common theme and if we can get that done and improve a little bit, I think we will become a lot better of a basketball team. We had a lot of kids help us win tonight as it was a team win.”
The Mavericks were led by a game-high 23 points from Mitch Albers as he was 8 of 16 from the field and 7 of 9 from the line. Alex Welhouse had 19 points and a team-high seven rebounds as UNO played just seven players in the game.
UNO shot 43.1 percent from the field as it was 31 of 72 from the field. The Mavericks were 5 of 17 from beyond the arc (29.4%) and struggled shooting at the line going 14 of 22 for 63 percent.
With 2:06 left, Welhouse hit his team-leading third triple of the game to tie the contest at 79. Two charity tosses by Albers, moments later, game UNO just its second lead of the second half and an 81-79 lead.
Tecker came up with a big shot with 47 seconds left to tie the game for the fourth time at 81. On the ensuing possession, the Mavericks had a good look at a layup by Albers with 12 second left, but a key defensive rebound by Krogman sent the Coyotes in full throttle the other way. Gruis was fouled by Caleb Steffensmeier as he went up for the shot with seven seconds left.
Gruis calmly knocked down the first toss as UNO tried to make him think about it with a timeout. Out of the timeout, Gruis again knocked down the charity toss for an 83-81 lead and the ninth lead change of the game.
UNO’s C.J. Carter drove to the bucket but Andreotti came up with his second block of the day and also pulled down the rebound as he was fouled immediately with 0.3 seconds remaining. Andreotti missed both shots, but the Mavericks were unable to get a desperation heave off as the buzzer sounded.
A Carter triple put the Mavericks up six at 16-10 with 13:01 remaining in the first half, which was their largest lead of the game. A 9-0 run over the next five minutes by the Coyotes capped with two charity tosses by Westbrook gave the home team a 19-16 lead with 10:46 as the momentum shifted and the 1,172 people in attendance began to get back into the game.
From there, the Coyotes never trailed the rest of the half and built the lead to as many as eight as freshman Nimrod Hilliard (Madison, Wis.) knocked down two free throws with five seconds remaining for a 44-36 advantage.
A 13-6 run by UNO over the first three minutes of the second half got the Mavericks within 59-49 capped by a triple from Carter. Over the next two minutes, the Coyotes swelled the lead back to eight as freshman Brandon Bos (Markham, Ontario) and Hilliard both knocked down triples for a 64-56 lead with 14:05 left.
Every time it seemed as if the Coyotes would pull away, UNO would have the answer and cut the deficit. A layup by Albers with 4:18 remaining gave UNO its first lead since the 13-mintue mark of the first half.
The Coyotes return to the road as they travel to Wyoming for a matchup with the Cowboys, Tues., Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. CT. Following Thanksgiving, South Dakota returns home to host Tabor College Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the DakotaDome.
Courtesy: Kit Strief, USD Athletics
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