South Dakota (1-2) visits No. 19 Gonzaga (2-0) Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in a game televised by Root Sports.
Stats – While the Zags have outscored their opponents by a total of 72 points in two performances that can only be described as dominant, the Coyotes struggled in their first two contests. South Dakota was outscored by 12 points a game, shooting worse than their opponents from the field, the free throw line, and beyond the arc. But something clicked in the second half of Friday’s win over North Carolina Central. The Coyotes shot over 50 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from deep, scoring 51 points in the final 20 minutes. They also entered the game averaging 13 turnovers a game compared to only eight assists. Those flip-flopped with 19 helpers and 11 turnovers in the victory. South Dakota found its groove Friday, and they’ll try to carry that into Sunday’s visit.
Stars – Through three games the Coyotes’ have no clearly defined star. In their debut it appeared to be their tallest player – 6-foot-10-inch Trevor Gruis. But since his 23 point outing against Southern he hasn’t reached double-figures again. In fact, of the five players that did score 10 or more the first two games, none of them did so twice. That changed against NCCU, with Tyler Flack’s 21 point performance leading a season-high four players in double-digits. For now this is likely an issue of inconsistency more than it is a sign of balance. On the flipside, South Dakota allowed teams to shoot 19-for-41 from deep in its losses. In both games the opponent’s top scorer did most of their damage from deep. As a team the Zags have hit 16 of their 29 attempts, led by four apiece from Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. Those two combined for 28 against West Virginia, and could have plenty more against the Coyotes.
Storylines – For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth much) these teams have met before. Gonzaga topped South Dakota 79-60, avenging an 83-70 defeat suffered in the 1956-57 season (two years before GU went division I). What’s more relevant is South Dakota’s seven losses in its last eight games away from home. Sunday’s game will be their fourth in five days – all on the road. It’s a safe bet their trend of road woes will continue in Spokane.