Coyote embracing ‘next man up’ mentality heading into Tournament

Summit League Tournament

VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — The USD Men will be without one of their top player after A.J. Plitzuweit suffered a season-ending injury this past Saturday. As USD gets set for their opening-round matchup against Western Illinois, the Coyotes are fully embracing the next-man-up mentality.

After suffering his season-ending injury last Saturday, A.J. Plitzuweit returned for shoot-around on Sunday.

“Still not used to seeing him limping around out there but just having around, talking to him, seeing him smile, it’s good,” Senior Guard Stanley Umude said.

“He’s the person that’s injured, and he should be down, but he’s the person lifting everybody else up,” Head Coach Todd Lee said.

Losing your second-leading scorer at any time is difficult and playing the very next day didn’t help, either.

“With the way the Summit League schedule is now, with the back-to-backs, you know losing a player like A.J. is basically 40 minutes, is hard to come back the next game and really be adjusted to that,” Senior Guard Stanley Umude said.

Six days between games should help the Coyotes adjust to their new lineup. Mason Archambault likely returning from injury will help, too.

“Getting guys back into their regular spots, if we can. If Mason can come back and play then he can go play the two position, and we can have Xavier go back to the three, and we don’t have to have Xavier try to learn the two,” Lee said.

Others are ready to step up.

“We’re not giving up for sure. It’s a tough one to lose A.J. But we’re fully capable of winning ball games, too. We’re ready for that one. We’re ready for the challenge,” Guard Xavier Fuller said.

Their head coach is confident they’ll be ready as well.

“We led the Summit League from the first day it started until Sunday. And we have 11 new guys, and 9 players that didn’t play Division 1 basketball until this year. Stan has had a great year, A.J. has had a great year, but you don’t do that unless your players have the right mentality,” Lee said.

The Coyotes will also be without backup center Nikola Zizic. USD plays Western Illinois Saturday night in the quarterfinals. Game is set to start at 8:45 p.m.

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