In their last game, South Dakota came out against North Dakota State and played inspired basketball for a half in their first game without AJ Plitzuweit. Then they fell behind and got buried by the Bison.
This led a certain Reaching the Summit Writer to pick them to lose in the opening round to Western Illinois. It is becoming more and more apparent that this South Dakota program is building a culture, however. Nothing better illustrated this than when Western Illinois Coach Rob Jeter compared where his Leatherneck program is and where he wants it to be. Jeter said it shows where his program needs to get when they are compared to programs like South Dakota.
The Coyotes were incredibly efficient on offense and made things tough for the Leathernecks on the defensive end. The Leathernecks responded by firing up quick shots all too often and having no answer on how to stop the Coyotes on the defensive end. The Coyotes led from wire to wire and looked every bit the 2 seed that they were coming into the tournament.
Stanley Umude paced the Coyotes all game and finished with 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. The concern going into the game was that Umude couldn’t do it all on his own, and he absolutely did not have to. Xavier Fuller had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Tasos Kamateros chipped in an impressive 17 points and 9 rebounds.
For Western Illinois, they would make a run from time to time only to watch South Dakota pull away again. Colton Sandage paced the Leathernecks with 16 points, and Will Carius added 12 points and 9 rebounds. The Leathernecks move into what’s next mode. When asked if he was planning on coming back next year, Carius said he was keeping his options open and Sandage chimed in with “Yes!” It’s clear Caruis’ teammates want him back, and who wouldn’t want an all league guy back. Jeter reflected on whether he needs to push players more next year and said it was “time to get back to the grind” Year 2 under Jeter will certainly have more continuity, as this years squad was a completely rebuilt roster.
For South Dakota, they wait until Monday to attempt to take their next step towards an NCAA tournament birth. The Coyotes will take on the winner of #3 North Dakota State and #6 Kansas City.