VERMILLION, S.D. | Triston Simpson and Matt Mooney took turns being unstoppable.
Simpson’s eight first-half points basically equaled the 8.1 scoring average the slippery South Dakota guard took into Wednesday night’s Summit League showdown against South Dakota State. Simpson kept pouring it on as the game progressed, scoring a season-high 20 points during an 87-68 win in front of 5,004 fans at the Coyote Sanford Sports Center.
“I always come in and shoot before the game,” said Simpson, who like Mooney, made four 3-point baskets. “I knew my shot was going pretty good before the game. Coach tells me about being aggressive. They were leaving me open for the most part and I was just knocking them down.”
Matt Mooney led South Dakota (18-5, 6-1 Summit) with 30 points and became the school’s 27th member of the 1,000-point club. Now with 1,028 career points in 56 games as a Coyote, Mooney in the first half, passed up a shot because he saw a better opportunity for Simpson.
Mooney, whose total doesn’t include the 199 points he scored at Air Force, spotted Simpson in the right corner. Simpson buried the 3-pointer with 4:19 left in the first half for a 29-27 lead, Mooney followed with a trey of his own 25 seconds later and from there, South Dakota, now the Summit League leader by a half-game over South Dakota State (17-6, 5-1), never trailed again.
“I saw a fantastic shooter (Simpson) wide open,” said Mooney. “I just had to deliver him the ball and he did the rest of the job. I felt we did a good job as a team sharing it tonight. Guys stepped up and made open shots. Triston had a career night tonight and in a big game, he was ready to go.”
A 6-foot-3 junior from Wauconda, Ill., Mooney notched his third 30-point game of the season for a team that shot 60.6 percent in the second half en route to their fourth straight victory.
“You guys have all seen Matt Mooney play,” said South Dakota Coach Craig Smith, whose team also received 14 points from Tyler Peterson, while off the bench, Nick Fuller tallied 11.
“He can really play. Tonight, we were really sharing it. That play (the pass from Mooney to Simpson), that was the epitome of how we need to play. Matt Mooney passed his 1,000th point at USD and to pass up that shot to get that shot, that speaks volumes for our team and about Matt.”
The consecutive connections from beyond the arc from Simpson and Mooney were part of a 14-0 run as South Dakota rallied from a 27-22 deficit that featured five straight points from 6-foot-9 SDSU junior Mike Daum (18 points, 14 rebounds). At the time, it was the Jacks’ biggest lead since a 6-0 margin early in the game when Reed Tellinghuisen (9 points) and Skyler Flatten (14 points) produced back-to-back shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
Tops in the Summit in scoring defense going into the game at 67.1 points per game, South Dakota limited the league’s highest scoring team (87.0) 19 points below their average. South Dakota State, which midway through the second half shot just 34 percent, finished at 42.9.
“I thought our defense was outstanding,” said Mooney. “They have guys who can really score. That team scores 90 points a game. We didn’t want to let Mike Daum get anything easy. They knew the double team was coming when they went into the post. We were on top of it.”
“We knew they were going to bring in two if we got the ball in deep enough,” said Daum. “They did a great job of collapsing defenses down and forcing us to kick out for shots.”
Daum went into the game with a 23.9 scoring average. David Jenkins, who entered with a 15.9 average was held to seven while Tellinghuisen, a former East Sac County standout, was four points shy of his 13.5 average.
“(South Dakota) came in the more aggressive team and they were definitely the more hungry team for a victory,” said South Dakota State Coach T.J. Otzelberger. “I thought they did a great job defensively. They took us out of our rhythm, offensively and at times, we kind of panicked. I know this was a rivalry game and you want to play your best, but it still counts as one game. We’ll get back to the practice floor, we’ll turn around and we’ll learn from it.”
South Dakota will resume Summit League play Saturday at the University of Denver.