Coyotes taken down at DakotaDome

Robert Myers Sports Editor

On Feb. 1 in a contest that came down to the wire, the SDSU men’s basketball team defeated team rivals on the USD Coyotes’ home court with a final score of 70-68.

The Jacks held the advantage of momentum entering the game, coming off of a late rally on the road against Denver to shock the Pioneers in the final seconds. The Coyotes, however, entered the game having lost three straight contests including a five-point loss to NDSU in which the Coyotes had led late in the second half.

Brayden Carlson led the early SDSU charge, attacking the basket and scoring 10 early points to put the Jacks up 14-7 with 11:46 to play in the half.

“We were just fortunate enough to play well early on in the game,” Carlson said. “In those first five, those six minutes in the game when they have all that energy and they’re either going to build on it or it’s going to kind of get sucked out of the gym.”

Following the Jacks’ early run, the crowd quieted, but only momentarily. The Coyotes responded. With 6:37 remaining in the half, a three-pointer from Casey Kasperbauer ties the game at 20, electrifying the home crowd of more than 5,000. USD led by as many as six before SDSU scores the last five of the half including a last second jumper by Zach Horstman that cut USD’s lead to 32-31.

 Jordan Dykstra’s streak of 32 consecutive free throws ends in the final minute of the first half. Dykstra makes six in a row in front of a roaring USD section to start the game, but his seventh attempt bounced off of the rim. Dykstra entered the game making 27 of 28 in conference play for a percentage of 96.4. Throughout the year, he had been an 84.7 percent shooter.

Emotions run high in the early moments of the second half as the Jacks regain the lead thanks to five quick points from Chad White. Three minutes into the half, USD senior Trevor Gruis steals the ball from Carlson and goes for the layup. In an upward motion for the shot, he is fouled by Dykstra. Gruis springs up and into Dykstra’s face prior to being restrained by teammates. Dykstra is charged with a flagrant foul on the play.

“I don’t know whether or not I needed to jump up but I thought maybe I’d get the crowd into it a bit, get the guys fired up,” Gruis said. “We shook hands afterwards so everything’s fine. It’s just a hard foul, a good play by him – just two big guys going up at the rim at the same time. That will happen.”

After leading 42-40 at the 14:46 mark, the Jacks mounted a 14-1 run to distance themselves from the Coyotes. Down 58-44 with 9:43 showing on the clock, the Coyotes appear to be letting the game slip away, but instead, rally and go on a 7-0 run, including another three-pointer and a pair of free throws from Kasperbauer.

“When we got that lead it just felt like we were trying to hang on instead of being aggressive,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “USD did a great job of not quitting and we almost panicked and gave that thing away.”

A reenergized crowd urges the Coyotes to pull even closer. They did just that with 1:10 on the clock. Trey Norris hits a jumper to pull them within two points of the Jacks. Both teams turn the ball over on their following possessions, leaving SDSU with the ball and the shot clock turned off. 

Through the use of timeouts, the Jacks drained 12 seconds off the clock after Norris committed USD’s sixth foul of the half. However, as Marcus Heemstra tried inbound the basketball with 11 ticks left on the clock, he turns it over and USD races down the court, where, out of control, they turned it over to Jake Bittle who was promptly fouled. 

“I was trying to get a timeout but the crowd went crazy,” USD head coach Joey James said. “The ball was in, no disrespect to Tyler Larson, but that’s not who we need the ball in the hands of in terms of trying to make a play in the end. He’s a good player, but I was trying to get a timeout and it was too late. A turnover occurred.” 

After Bittle made his first free throw, USD called timeout. As they returned to action, he made his second basket, putting SDSU up four points with only five seconds remaining. Norris scores a layup in the final second, but it was not enough to stop the Jacks from walking out of the DakotaDome victoriously.

For the Jacks, Carlson scores a game-high 22 points. Dykstra scores 16 points to go with 11 rebounds, earning his first double-double since Dec. 10, 2013 when he scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebounds against the University of Minnesota. Saturday’s double-double was his sixth the season. Also scoring in double figures for the Jacks were Bittle and Heemstra who each contributed 10.

Heemstra, who has not started since the beginning of the season, came off the bench and played 25 minutes, partially due Cody Larson’s foul trouble which limited his effectiveness and game time.

“Marcus was real good,” Nagy said. “And I think everybody would say the same thing. Marcus is probably the best teammate we have. He is. Whatever we ask him to do he does. Here he is a senior. In terms of the amount of time he’s had, it hasn’t been a lot, even his senior year – sometimes he plays thirty, sometimes he plays twelve, and he doesn’t say a word. … One of the best kids I’ve ever coached.” 

With his 22 points, Carlson eclipsed 1,000 career points. He is the forty-fifth player to do so and now sits at 1,003 points. 

“My teammates Jordan and Chad already got there,” Dykstra said. “Wolters was there a long time ago so I think it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been surrounded by great guys, great teammates, and great coaches my whole career. It’s just working hard and [that work] finally paying off to get to that milestone.” 

On the University of South Dakota side, Kasperbauer led the team with 17 points, making three of five three-point attempts. Gruis scores 16 with 6 rebounds, and Norris scores 14. 

SDSU will return to action at 7pm on Thursday, Feb. 6 in Frost Arena where they will host Fort Wayne.  The Mastodons will enter the contest leading the Summit League with their 6-1 conference record.