The USD Coyotes ended a four game losing skid with back to back home wins against Denver and Omaha to bring their overall conference record to 2-3.
“Any win in conference, is very important and is always going to be tough to come by, but especially after that rough four game stretch. We really needed to get a win, especially at home and protect our home court,” Tyler Hagedorn said.
Much of the reason that the Coyotes have found their rhythm again, can be credited to the return of senior guard, Triston Simpson, who missed seven games due to injury.
“Everything calms down when he’s out there, because he is a leader and he knows what the staff wants and he can put guys in the right position and he doesn’t turn the ball over, so losing him, for seven games and then not having him, one-hundred percent since he’s come back, has been tough for our team,” Todd lee said.
The next game on the schedule for USD is the SDSU Jackrabbits, which creates an excitement on the USD campus.
“I love it. I love cheering on the football team when they play the Jackrabbits. I love when any one of our sports teams here, play the Jackrabbits. It’s just a great rivalry because it brings a lot of buzz and excitement to the campus,” Hagedorn said.
“There’s nothing better. There’s nothing better than when there is 6,000 people in the SCSC (Sanford Coyote Sports Center), screaming and going crazy, giving us energy and helping us play better. Fans don’t actually realize how much that does help us,” Triston Simpson said.
The SDSU Jackrabbits lost five players from last year’s team, including their leading scorers in Mike Daum and David Jenkins Jr. However, this year’s team has set their goals and have exceeded expectations as SDSU stands a top the Summit League.
“I think from the start of the summer, when we got that chemistry between one another and just making goals for the team for the season, before the season, just really helped out a lot. As the season came, those goals started to matter and I think that is what helped out a lot,” Douglas Wilson said.
The biggest key of emphasis for the Jacks has been finding consistency.
“I think we’re getting better defensively. I think we’re doing a good job on the glass and I think we’ve become more consistent and that’s something that was really important for our group was the longevity of the moments that we are playing well and those have stretched out a little bit. We still make a lot of mistakes and we still have a long ways to go and this team can get a lot better,” Eric Henderson said.
With a healthy Triston Simpson back on the court for USD, the Jackrabbits will need to find a way to slow a balanced Coyote offense.
“I think they’re balanced and I think they have the ability to score the basketball with all of their positions to be honest with you. They have multiple guys that can step up. You think about guys like Tyler Peterson and you think he’s not necessarily a scorer, but he goes over a thousand points in their last game and so he’s certainly capable. You just have to make sure that you’re so engaged,” Henderson said.
For the Coyotes, they will need to find a way to slow down a Jackrabbit offense that is scoring an impressive 83 points per game in conference play.
“They’ve got a lot of guys, they’ve got some size and they can really shoot it well and I know coach Henderson is a really good coach and so they’re going to be a tough challenge and they’re on a hot streak, they’re at the top of the conference now. They’ve knocked off some really good teams and so hopefully we’re going to be able to protect our home court and knock them off this Sunday,” Hagedorn said.
“When I watch them play, I look at how hard they play and they’ve got two really physical, tough, athletic post players in (Matt) Dentlinger and Doug Wilson and so those guys are really a tough match-up for people in our league and then their guards are playing well. They lost a lot of guys from from last year, but they have a number of guys that played in that system and have won a lot of games,” Lee said.
On Sunday, the Yotes and Jacks will add another chapter to the storied rivalry that is the South Dakota Showdown Series.
“Well there is a little extra edge there, there’s no doubt about it. Our guys feel it, their guys feel it and they’ve got a very experienced team and they’re starting to playing with more and more confidence again, like they were at the beginning of the year,” Henderson said.
“Any in state rivalry, especially South Dakota State and South Dakota is great, because not every state has that and everything seems to stop and focus on that game for those two hours or so,” Lee said.
The Coyotes will host the Jackrabbits at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 3:30.