Summit Men: USD at SDSU [PREVIEW]
The hottest team in the Summit League puts a five game winning streak, and 26 game home winning streak, on the line tonight when South Dakota State hosts South Dakota in the South Dakota Showdown, Presented by South Dakota Corn.
In the last week, the Jacks (7-2) have picked up a game-and-a-half in the standings and now sit just a half game-behind Western Illinois (8-2) in a second place tie with North Dakota State (7-2).
The Jacks are doing it by taking care of the basketball and playing good defense. SDSU has the fewest turnovers in the league (9 per game) and allows the third fewest points (63).
The Coyotes (4-5) have been inconsistent all season, failing to win back-to-back games since November. All that despite leading the Summit League in scoring (81 points per game), three-pointers made (79), three-point percentage (46%), and free throw shooting (80%).
Defense has been the problem at times for USD. The Coyotes are near the bottom of the conference in points allowed and have allowed the third most three-pointers of any Summit League team.
Individually, the Jacks are led by Nate Wolters, who continues to have a career for the ages in Brookings. The senior guard from St. Cloud leads the Summit League in assists (5 per game), is the second leading scorer in the conference (21 points per game), and is among the nation's best (among active players) in career assist-to-turnover ratio (1st), career free throws made (2nd), career points (3rd), and career assists (4th).
SDSU has two other players who are averaging in double figures in Summit League play, Jordan Dykstra (13 points per game) and Tony Fiegen (12). On the boards, the Jacks have four of the top 14 rebounders in the conference, Dykstra (6 per game), Wolters (5), Fiegen (5), and Brayden Carlson (5).
South Dakota's high powered offense is led by Kansas State transfer Juevol Myles, who's fourth in the Summit League in scoring (18 points per game). One of the biggest keys for the Coyotes this season has been three-point shooting. USD boasts the top three most accurate long distance shooters in the league, Casey Kasperbauer (55%), Jordan Boots (52%), and Brandon Bos (47%). Bos has hit a three in 16 straight games, Boots has made 10 of his last 13 from behind the arc.
Inside, Trevor Gruis is one of just four players in the Summit League in the top 11 in both scoring (13 points per game) and rebounding (7 per game).
In the first meeting between these two teams this season, the Coyotes jumped out to a 20-point first half lead for the second straight game against the Jacks, and held on to win 74-71 in Vermillion, January 5th. Myles led all scorers with 22 points, while USD shot 55% in the first 20 minutes, limiting SDSU to 25% shooting in the first half. Fiegen, Dykstra, and Carlson struggled from the floor for the Jacks in the DakotaDome, hitting just 7-of-28 shots on the night.
Despite giving up 14 offensive rebounds, the Coyotes won the battle in the paint, outscoring the Jacks 26-16. Karim Rowson had 12 rebounds for USD.
SDSU is coming in off an impressive second half showing against North Dakota State last Saturday in Brookings. The Jacks turned a six-point deficit around with a 17-0 run in the second half to hand the Bison just their second conference loss of the season, 69-53. South Dakota State limited the nation's most accurate shooter, Marshall Bjorklund, to just one-of-three shooting, while the Jacks shot 57% in the second half. Nate Wolters finished with 26 points.
USD lost 95-90 at home last Thursday to an Omaha team they had crushed on the road by 23 in late December. The Coyotes fell behind early, thanks to too many open looks for Maverick shooters, and never re-took the lead, despite cutting a 15-point second half deficit to one with four minutes left. USD made 11 three-pointers in the game but gave up 13.
Tipoff at Frost Arena is set for 7:00pm tonight. Saturday the Coyotes go to North Dakota State, while the Jacks host Kansas City.