Karim Rowson scored a team-high 11 points and Tyler Larson added 10 as South Dakota drew even in the Summit League standings with a 64-54 win against Western Illinois on Senior Day Saturday at the DakotaDome.
The Coyotes (12-15, 6-6 Summit) have won three in a row and will be seeded no lower than fifth at the Summit League Tournament. South Dakota also ended a six-game losing streak to Western Illinois (9-18, 3-9), which has now lost six straight.
“That’s pretty neat considering we were picked to finish seventh,” said USD interim head coach Joey James about the tournament seeding. “I think it shows we are making progress.”
The Coyotes led 30-24 at halftime and never relinquished the lead despite Western pulling within one at 47-46 with less than six minutes to go. Larson hit an off-balance runner to cap a fast break, and buried a 3-pointer on the next possession to make it 52-46.
Western center Michael Ochereobia scored in the lane to make it 52-48 with three minutes left. Ochereobia had five field goals and 10 points.
On the ensuing possession, USD senior Trevor Gruis worked out of a double team and hit Rowson on the right block. Rowson was surrounded by three defenders, but put it up and in to make it 54-48. Next time down, it was Gruis who pivoted around Ochereobia and scored from the right block to make it 56-48 with less than two to play.
“Big time play,” said James of Rowson’s score. “That was a huge momentum swinger for us. And then (Trevor) comes back, they thought he was going to pass, but Trevor makes a heck of a move to finish at the rim. I thought at that point, that was close to being your ballgame.”
It was a sweet ending for two seniors playing their final game at the Dome. Gruis and Rowson, along with fellow senior Steve Tecker, were honored in a pregame ceremony. Both left the court to standing ovations down the stretch.
“It was my last time playing here and I wanted to go out with a bang,” said Rowson, who hails from New York. “This is the first time my parents have been to South Dakota and it was great. It felt like I was back home.”
Gruis fouled out with 1:11 to go and with USD holding a 60-51 lead. He had six points, three rebounds and four assists.
The Coyotes were 17 of 18 from the free-throw line while their counterparts were 7 of 15. USD was 7 of 18 from beyond the arc and Western was 3 of 17. All three triples for the Leathernecks were by Garret Covington who made 6 of 15 shots and scored a game-high 19 points.
South Dakota concludes the regular season next week with road trips to North Dakota State (Thursday) and South Dakota State (Saturday).
Courtesy: Bryan Boettcher, USD