Morehead State up next for USD men; St. Mary’s, then Nebraska for USD women

The USD men play at Morehead State tonight in yet another game against a mid-major in which the Coyotes will have to play very well to win. Adding that USD is on the road, where the Coyotes are 1-5 so far, it’s a game that is at least as challenging as the previous four, all of which the Coyotes lost after leading at halftime.

The Eagles are 7-5 overall and 3-1 at home.  South Dakota has won back-to-back meetings against Morehead State and has a 3-1 advantage in the series. Morehead State’s best player is Angelo Warner, a very strong do-it-all guard who averages 17.5 points and five rebounds a game. He’s hit 20-of-68 3-pointers, which is not spectacular, but he’s 50 of 85 inside the stripe. Sounds like a matchup problem to me. The other guy who will be tough to deal with is Chad Posthumus, a 6-11, 255-pounder from Winnipeg who is averaging 12.6 rebounds a game.

Whenever  I read about a tall Canadian, my first reaction is “Geez, and think about how tall he is on skates.”

Getting over the hump has become the theme for the Coyotes over the last few weeks. With four consecutive tough losses to competitive teams, you look at their body of work and you can say that, yes, they’re improved over last year. The evidence isn’t there yet in the win column, however. USD has four more games to play before beginning Summit League play on Jan. 11 vs. Denver. They’ll most likely beat Iowa Wesleyan on Jan.  4, but the other three are going to be more difficult, beginning with Morehead State tonight. (They’re at Youngstown State on Dec. 29 and have Cal State-Northridge at the Dome on Jan. 2). I think it’s very important in that time that USD gets at least one win over another D-I prior to starting the Summit League season.

A big part of the progress of this team is hooked into getting some consistency out of the entire lineup, rather than just Trevor Gruis, Brandon Bos and Trey Norris. Certainly others have had their good nights, but not enough of them so far. This isn’t supposed to be a team that has an entire offense run through two guys, as the Coyotes had to do when Charlie Westbrook and Louie Krogman were the team’s only Division I scorers two years ago. Developing consistent multiple threats from the inside and the perimeter is still a project for a team that shows flashes of being very good.

The USD women face a salty NAIA outfit tonight at the Dome, but they’re still the heavy favorites. St. Mary’s of Nebraska is ranked No. 12 and has a 9-3 record with recent close losses to Sioux Falls and Hastings College. The Flames’ top scorer is Deaundra Young, a 6-2 center who is averaging 18.6 points and 8.9 rebounds a game. My guess is that she’s going to give the Coyote inside players a Division I-level challenge.

The big game this week for the women, however,  would have to be an afternoon visit to Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday. The Cornhuskers, who were ranked 19th in the most recent NCAA poll, have an all-time great in uniform named Jordan Hooper, a 6-2 senior who is averaging 19.9 points and 11.2 rebounds. She undoubtedly will be one of the best players the Coyotes face this season. She gets plenty of help from 6-2 Emily Cady, like Hooper a native Nebraskan, who is averaging 13.6 points and 9.2 rebounds.

It’s a homecoming for Coach Amy Williams, who as Amy Gusso was a scrappy 5-6 guard for the Cornhuskers in the mid-1990s. I’m not sure how that will factor into the final score, but it has to be fun for her to go back to her old school as a Division I head coach.