VERMILLION, S.D. | The South Dakota Showdown Series amps up to a higher level this week.
In-state rivals South Dakota and South Dakota State tangle on the basketball court on back-to-back nights at different locales.
The Coyote men play host to South Dakota State on Wednesday at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center, while the scene shifts to Frost Arena in Brookings, South Dakota, for the women’s game Thursday.
According to the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, the Jackrabbits are No. 6 in the country and South Dakota No. 9. The teams boast identical 17-5 overall records with SDSU leading the Summit League at 5-0 and the Coyotes second at 5-1.
It’s the first time USD has been 5-1 in the Summit and it has won back-to-back games since suffering its long league loss to North Dakota State, 84-79, at home on Jan. 6. The Coyotes picked up a big road win on Saturday at Nebraska-Omaha, 85-71.
If you recall, South Dakota was hovering around the .500 mark at this time last season before catching fire and eventually capturing the Summit League regular season title. Its season ended, however, with a last-second loss to SDSU in a league tournament semifinal.
“It’s going to be a fantastic game with two very good teams in hopefully an electric environment,” USD Coach Craig Smith said. “It’s a great game for the state and fans in our region. For two teams like us to be two hours apart, both be 17-5 at our level where you’re on the road all the time and not taking charter jets, bouncing from here to there, it says a lot about both programs.”
Expect a full house at the sparkling second-year facility Wednesday. Fans are being asked to dress in all red, but there will be a fair amount of blue in the stands as well. USD won 91-89 here last season and SDSU prevailed 73-72 at Brookings and 74-71 in the Summit tourney in Sioux Falls.
The game features two of the top mid-major players in the country. SDSU’s Mike Daum, the reigning Summit League player of the year, averages 22.9 points per game and 27 in league play. The 6-9 junior led the nation in scoring last season and has picked up where he left off, reaching double figures in all but one game this season and posting seven 30-point performances.
“He’s a veteran guy and at his size he can score inside and has a great mid-range game and shoots the three very well,” Smith said. “He’s really improved his game in terms of taking people off the dribble and they do a lot more things for him now. There’s so many different things they can do with him and it makes everybody around him so much better because they can put those guys in a better position to have success and utilize their strengths.”
True freshman David Jenkins scores at a 15.9 points per game clip for the Jacks, while senior Reed Tellinghausen, who prepped at East Sac County, averages 13.5 an outing.
Matt Mooney leads South Dakota with a 17.3 average and the 6-3 junior from Wauconda, Illinois, is two points shy of reaching 1,000 in a Coyote uniform. Mooney joined the team last season after transferring from the Air Force Academy.
Tyler Hagedorn, a 6-10 junior from Norfolk, Nebraska, has enjoyed a breakout season, contributing 13.9 points. Hagedorn scored 14 of his team’s first 16 points and finished with 25 at Omaha.
The Jacks pour in 94.3 points per game in league play while South Dakota boasts the league’s top defensive average of 67.1 points per contest.
“Defense has been our calling card, we’ve done some really good things this year and we were good on defense last year,” Smith said. “The last three games we’ve really defended at a high level. We feel like we’ve gained some momentum since the North Dakota State game and are kind of re-inventing ourselves a little bit.
“We were in a little bit of funk on offense since Christmas but I felt we played a lot better offensive at Fort Wayne and against Oral Roberts and Omaha. I like where we’re trending. We’ve got a long ways to go to get to where we can be but we’re definitely making a lot of positive strides in the right direction.”
South Dakota State has won eight straight, including a 98-70 triumph at Western Illinois on Saturday. The Jackrabbits are also off to their best start since joining the Summit League in 2007.
WOMEN’S TEAMS BOTH UNBEATEN IN LEAGUE
South Dakota (15-5) is off to its first 6-0 start in Summit League women’s play, while South Dakota State (16-4) is also unbeaten with a 5-0 mark.
The red-hot Coyotes have won nine in a row and four straight on the road, but lost 70-58 in Brookings last season.
Allison Arens (12.4), Ciara Duffy (11.9) and Jaycee Bradley (10.2) are the top three scorers for Coach Dawn Plitzuweit’s squad, which has limited league opponents to 58 points per game and forced an average of 18.9 turnovers.
South Dakota State features three pre-season all-conference picks in Macy Miller, Madison Guebert and Ellie Thompson. Miller averages 18.6 points and shoots 51 percent from the field, while Guebert has a team-best 51 3-pointers and averages an even 15 per contest.