It’s not a secret to anyone, but the time spent away from the DakotaDome for the USD men has been something resembling a repeating nightmare.
It’s tough to win on the road, particularly with the parity of the Summit League, but it has become one of the defining features of the 2013-14 season for the Coyotes.
One of the team’s five road losses in the conference was close, the rest were not. Saturday’s 75-67 loss at Denver wasn’t exactly a rout but the Pioneers were in control throughout, save for a scrappy USD finish that closed the margin to single digits.
The Coyotes did not turn in the same defensive effort against the Pioneers that they did at the Dome, where they held them to 54 points. They had no luck trying to keep Brett Olson quiet — he scored a career-high 30, with 18 of them coming from behind the arc — and had little luck getting the ball into Trevor Gruis, who finished with six points and dealt with heavy defensive attention throughout.
USD got solid efforts out of Adam Thoseby, who scored 15 points and Trey Norris, who also had 15, but when the Coyotes needed points to stay in the game, everyone was struggling.
An-end-of-the-first-half last-second heave for three points from Denver’s Jalen Love after a USD turnover sent the Pioneers into half leading 38-26, and things didn’t get any better for USD until the very end.
I have no statistical data to back me up, but it seems like the end of the first half has been a persistent trouble spot for the Coyotes this year. I went back and looked at their games and it’s not quite as bad as I expected, but there have been plenty of incidents.
— In the loss to Wyoming in Rapid City, Larry Nance, Jr., hit a 3-pointer with one second to play.
— Against Kansas State, the Coyotes turned the ball over but the Wildcats missed two free throws.
— Against Cal State-Northridge, they gave up a 3-pointer with five seconds left.
— In the first game against Denver, they turned it over but the Pioneers missed.
— In a win over Fort Wayne at the Dome they turned it over, but the Dons didn’t get a shot off.
— In the loss to NDSU, the Coyotes turned it over with 28 seconds left but the Bison missed two shots in the final seconds.
— In the loss to SDSU, Zach Horstman hit a jumper at the buzzer.
While watching the end of the first half against Denver, it appeared that even if the Coyotes missed their final attempt, they were going to avoid taking a double-digit deficit into half. But that was before another turnover, followed by Love’s running 35-footer.