If South Dakota is going to move into the top half of the Summit League standings in time for the conference tournament in Sioux Falls next month, they need to care of business at home this week.

The Coyotes' final two regular season games at the DakotaDome this season come after splitting on the road last week.

Thursday, USD dug itself a big hole at Fort Wayne, trailing by 18 in the first half after hitting just four of their first 18 from the floor to start the game. The Coyotes trimmed the margin to 12 at the break, and actually led by three in the second half, before the Mastodons scored 34 points in the final 11 minutes to win by six.

South Dakota head coach Joey James told me it was the slow first half that did his team in:

Saturday in Indianapolis, the Coyotes limped into town with a six-game conference losing streak to face a team that two days earlier had snapped a year-long Summit League skid, IUPUI.

Early on, the Jaguars played like a team that just had the weight of the world lifted from its shoulders, as they hit six of their first nine shots to grab an early six point lead.

USD rallied with a run of its own to tie the game at halftime, and then senior Trevor Gruis took over in the second half, with ten points in the first eight minutes top push the Coyote lead to ten points, ad USD shot 56 percent in the second half.

The end of the losing streak didn't come easily though as IUPUI rallied with a flurry of late 3-pointers to cut the lead to one in the final seconds, but the Coyotes survived for their first conference road win of the year.

Coach James says despite their struggles the last two seasons, IUPUI is still a dangerous team:

This week's home stand starts with the number two scoring team in the conference, Omaha.

The Mavericks won the first meeting by four last month, thanks to a 50-point second half, although the Coyotes had a potential game-tying 3-pointer rim out in the final seconds.

The key to slowing down the Mavericks offense is disrupting the up tempo play of guards CJ Carter, Justin Simmons, and Marcus Tyus, who combined for 46 points against USD last month in Omaha.

The Coyotes were without injured guard Trey Norris in that first meeting.  He'll be in the lineup for Thursday's game and should help USD defensively.

Coach James says last month's loss in Omaha was a missed opportunity:

Tipoff Thursday is 7:00pm in Vermillion.  South Dakota hosts Western Illinois Saturday afternoon.