The USD men were overwhelmed a year ago in their first trip to Oakland, losing 101-83. It was the first Summit League weekend in program history and a hint of what was to come during a 5-13 conference effort. A season later, it was a different story.
Two nights after losing yet another tight league game at Fort Wayne (62-60), the Coyotes trailed Oakland 30-16 with 9:40 to play in the first half at the Grizzlies’ gym. Travis Bader, one of the best shooters in college basketball, had hit his first five 3-point attempts.
From that point onward, USD outscored Oakland 81-58 in a 97-78 win. Casey Kasperbauer, who rolled an ankle in practice earlier this week and didn’t play on Thursday night, led the comeback with four 3-pointers in the first half.
Oakland was midst a second-half rally when Duke Mondy was called for traveling on a drive for a layup. Had the shot counted it would have narrowed the margin to 81-74 with 3:16 remaining. Instead, the points were waved off and a fractious Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe was called for a technical foul. Kasperbauer made both the free throws for the technical, then on the Coyotes’ ensuing possession, Trevor Gruis scored. What could have been an 81-74 score was 85-72 and the threat was over.
“We did a great job with the matchup,” USD coach Dave Boots told radio man Joe Van Goor. “We got to Bader off all of his cuts. Our rotations were really good. Obviously we had a big night on the offensive end but we did everything we could to defend them.”
Thursday night had been a difficult evening for the guards. Both Brandon Bos and Juevol Myles ran into foul trouble and Kasperbauer was unavailable because of injury. Against Oakland, the backcourt of Bos, Myles, Kasperbauer and Jordan Boots combined for 64 points.
“Our top two guys played very well no matter who I had in there,” Boots said. “Casey and Jordan were fantastic shooting the basketball tonight and they came up with six steals up on top and we haven’t had that lately. Even Thursday I thought we played well defensively. … Coming off a poor performance with our defense we got two good efforts on the road. And we have a very efficient offense tonight. If we’d have played a little better offensively on Thursday, we could have had a win there, too. “
With Omaha coming to town on Thursday, it gives the Coyotes another opportunity to win two Summit League games in a row, something they’ve not done this year. Momentum has had a short shelf life so far this season. Coming off the biggest Summit road win in Coyote history – albeit a short history – they would like to avoid taking a step backward as they prepare to enter the second half of the season.
“We just can’t let up now,” Boots said. “We have a tough game on Thursday, but we’ve been down this road before. Our kids get a little excited about some things they get done now because it’s all so new to them. We have to get over that. We have to get to where they expect to win and carry some of that burden with them.”