GLENDALE, Ariz. (USD) -– South Dakota (3-1) had four score in double-digits to edge past the Virginia Military Institute 85-81 in the opening round of the Arizona Tip-Off Friday afternoon.
With the win, the Coyotes advance to the championship game Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Yotes will face the winner of Purdue Fort Wayne vs. Northern Arizona.
Kaleb Stewart led the offense with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field (46.7 percent) and had two of the Yotes’ five triples. Lahat Thioune recorded his third-straight double-double of the year with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Mayuom Buom had a big second half for USD, putting up 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting in just 10 minutes of action. Steven Kramer added a career-high 10 points on 66 percent shooting.
VMI (1-3) was led by a game-high 27 points from Brennan Watkins. Watkins, who was averaging 12.3 points per game so far this season, knocked down five of VMI’s seven three-pointers, shot 9-of-15 from the field, and buried all four of his free throw attempts. Koree Cotton added 16 points and Taeshaud Jackson had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
A tight first half saw both teams shooting around 40 percent from the floor and trading leads. The Keydets came out hot, knocking down a quick three just 13 seconds into the game and following up with a three-point play down low to take a quick 6-0 lead. Cold shooting from the Yotes kept them from scoring until the 17-minute mark on Bostyn Holt’s first three-pointer of the season. A triple from Isaac Bruns tied the game at 16 and the lead was bounced back and forth with the Yotes taking the two-point edge into halftime.
South Dakota came out of the break and got to work, improving to a 50 percent shooting clip in the second half. Thioune got his second and third fouls within one minute of each other early in the half and was replaced by Buom. Buom had 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting in 10 minutes of play to help South Dakota go on a 12-2 run over three and a half minutes to extend the lead to double-digits. Watkins had 18 of his 27 points in the second half and helped the Keydets cut the lead down to four with 40 seconds to play. The Yotes were clean from the charity stripe and able to hold the lead and take the win.
South Dakota advances to the championship game of the Desert Division of the Arizona Tip-Off. The Yotes will face the winner of Purdue Fort Wayne vs. Northern Arizona. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.