South Dakota State, USD Coyotes to face off Saturday to cap full weekend of Summit League action

Jan. 17—SIOUX FALLS — Round 1 of the USD/SDSU basketball rivalry is set for Saturday, with the Coyote men hosting the Jackrabbits at 1 p.m. and the South Dakota State women hosting USD at 6 p.m.

Both games will be televised on Midco Sports.

Before they can fully focus on the rivalry game, however, all four teams play Thursday night. SDSU's men host Omaha and SDSU's women visit the Mavericks, while USD's men host St. Thomas and the women travel to St. Paul to face the Tommies.

Here's where the teams stand heading into Thursday and the weekend:

The Jackrabbits were the pick to win the Summit League this year and have had an uneven start to the season. They're 9-9 overall and 2-1 in Summit League play, and coming off a frustrating loss in which they gave up 99 points in loss at Denver that was their first to the Pioneers since 2017.

The Jacks have leaned heavily on guard Zeke Mayo, who leads the team in scoring (18.3), rebounding (6.2) and assists (3.4) while producing a .479/.375/.811 shooting line. Sophomore center William Kyle has taken a sturdy step forward in his second season, ranking second on the team in scoring (13.4) and rebounding (5.8), while Luke Appel (10.9 points) and Charlie Easley (10.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals) have been productive as well.

"Obviously we didn't play our best in Denver but since Christmas break I've been really pleased with our team," said coach Eric Henderson. "Our connectivity, our intent, has been in a good spot. I love our progression. I think we're getting better. I think we're close. But we need a little bit more intent, a little bit more urgency and a little bit more pride on that defensive end of the floor."

The Coyotes enter Thursday night's game at 8-10 and 1-2 in the league. They're allowing the second-most points in the conference at 76.3.

Kaleb Stewart leads USD with 14.1 points per game, aided by a .422 clip from 3-point range, while Lahat Thioune has been a force inside, averaging 13.3 points and 10.2 rebounds. Bostyn Holt (11.6 points, 4.9 rebounds) and Paul Bruns (10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds) have also played well, while Isaac Bruns (7.3 points) and Max Burchill (6.1 points, 4.4 rebouds) have had important roles. The Yotes are the league's top rebounding team, enjoying a margin of more than +6, but they've turned the ball over more than any team in the conference.

"We've been inconsistent with taking care of the ball, and that's not setting yourself up for success," said coach Eric Peterson. "When you turn the ball over you don't have a chance to score. We have a chance because we're playing defense, we're just not scoring enough. There's a lot of positives we can draw, we're just not there yet, and the hard part is you're trying to get there and you play six of eight on the road. It'll be nice to finally get some home games."

South Dakota picked up some quality wins and lost to a few high-level teams in a strong non-conference slate, and head into Thursday night at 12-6, with a 1-2 mark in the league. They lost at home to both NDSU and Oral Roberts while winning on the road at Omaha in overtime.

Maybe that bodes well for them this weekend with trips to St. Thomas and Frost Arena.

The Yotes leaned on their defense through non-conference play but it hasn't been as strong against Summit League foes. While USD allows an average of 64.3 points this season, they allowed 84, 71 and 91 in their three league games.

Grace Larkins is once against doing the heavy lifting for USD, coming into Thursday leading the team in scoring (16.9), rebounding (7.5), assists (a league-leading 5.4) and steals (1.6) while shooting .505/.386/.812.

Kendall Holmes (11.1 points) and Tori DePerry (9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds) have been the top secondary contributors for coach Kayla Karius, but the second-year coach would like to see more edge from her players.

"We're missing that killer instinct," Karius said. "That's what you have to learn, and not just relying on one person to do that. Everybody's got to do their job. It's talking a lot about that — watching film and getting back to practice and working on our defense."

Behind a consistently strong defense and a young roster coming into its own, the Jacks are finding their groove. They've won five in a row and are 3-0 in league play, 11-5 overall. Four of their five losses have come to ranked teams — the fifth came at Wisconsin.

Brooklyn and Paige Meyer (no relation) have carried the load, with Brooklyn ranking fifth in the league in scoring (15.4), second in rebounding (8.8) and first in blocks (2.3) and Paige is second in scoring (15.2) and seventh in assists (3.5) and steals (1.7).

Senior Tori Nelson continues to be a rock at both ends (7.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.5 blocks), while guard Madison Mathiowetz has stepped up her game in a big way, averaging 10.8 points for the season and 14.8 over her last five.

"I think we've all grown in our roles," said coach Aaron Johnston. "Early in the year the roles weren't necessarily different but we had so many new players in those roles — even some of our returners are now starting and playing 30 minutes a game, which is different than what they needed to do in the past. Everyone has grown tremendously in their roles and I give our players a ton of credit."