VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) — South Dakota held Bellarmine without a field goal for eight minutes in the middle of the second half and that was the difference in a 78-64 Coyote victory Wednesday inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
South Dakota improved to 6-0 at home this season and finished non-conference play with a 7-4 mark. The Coyotes host Oral Roberts Monday and Kansas City next Wednesday to open the Summit League slate.
Bellarmine, a recent Division II powerhouse that is in year two of a transition to Division I, fell to 5-7. The Knights placed second in the ASUN last year to start their transition. They have faced nationally-ranked Gonzaga, UCLA and Purdue in non-conference play.
Xavier Fuller scored 20 points for the second game in a row to lead South Dakota while Kruz Perrott-Hunt added 19 and Mason Archambault netted 12. Dylan Penn and C.J. Fleming led the Knights with 19 and 16 points, respectively.
Both teams shot above 50 percent in the first half and Bellarmine had a 38-35 edge at the break. The Knights were 5-of-9 from downtown in the opening stanza while the Coyotes were 4-of-9.
Penn’s only 3 of the game broke a 46-46 tie with 11:20 left, but the Knights managed just four free throws over the next eight minutes and by then South Dakota had leaped to a 63-53 lead. The Coyotes made 10 free throws over the final 2:30 to seal the win.
“Defense won the game for us and that always makes a coach happy,” said South Dakota coach Todd Lee. “The second half, they end up shooting 28 percent and turned it over 12 times. They only had one turnover at the half.
“I thought our guys made a couple of adjustments – we guarded them more 1-on-1. I thought Damani Hayes on Dylan Penn was a big one for us. He did a really good job.”
Hayes offered 22 minutes off the Coyote bench and finished with five rebounds, four points and a block. Penn had 10 points on 10 shots in the first half and nine points on nine shots in the second, but USD forced him into six turnovers in the second half and that fueled the rally.
“We haven’t lost this year at the Sports Center, and to beat a good Bellarmine team right before league will give our guys some confidence,” added Lee.
Fuller was 7-of-11 from the field in reaching 20 points for the third time this season. Perrott-Hunt used three triples and an 8-for-8 performance from the stripe to tie his second-highest scoring output of the season. He also had seven boards, four assists and a steal. South Dakota shot 47 percent for the game, had one more rebound than Bellarmine and made 26-of-32 free throws.
The game was a matchup of former coaching rivals as Lee and Bellarmine’s Scott Davenport began at Kentucky Wesleyan and Bellarmine, respectively, ahead of the 2005-06 season. This is Davenport’s 17th year with the Knights. The two met 20 times in Lee’s eight seasons at Kentucky Wesleyan. This was their first matchup at the Division I level.