Coyote Brandon Bos

It may as well have been a tournament game.

That’s the way the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team saw it, anyway.

A convincing 80-64 victory in Saturday night’s regular season finale against rival – and first-place – South Dakota State provided the Coyotes with significant momentum heading into the Summit League tournament.

And yet, for a team that has beaten everyone in the conference, the Coyotes (16-15, 9-7) aren’t exactly concerned about their No. 5 seed in the bracket.

“We don’t care who we play,” said Tyler Larson, one of three seniors honored before the game.

“We were picked to finish eighth, so we don’t really care about seeding. We’re just trying to get to the championship game.”

Understandably, beating the No. 1 seed in the tournament before the tournament even begins, is a confidence boost toward that goal, according to head coach Craig Smith.

“We know we’re capable of beating everybody if we play a certain way, with a chip on our shoulder and an unselfishness,” he said.

There was plenty of both on Saturday in front of a tournament-like atmosphere, with 4,812 fans.

The Coyotes shot 47 percent against the league’s top defense (by shooting percentage) and held the league’s second-highest scoring outfit to 34 percent.

Having already secured the No. 1 seed for the post-season tournament, the Jacks (21-9, 12-4) jumped out quickly on the Coyotes, leading 14-5 three and a half minutes in.

Things then quickly got away from the visitors.

“They played like they needed the game more than we did,” head coach Scott Nagy said.

Once tied 26-26, the game quickly turned in favor of USD, which took a 44-34 lead into halftime.

There were certain moments in the second half when it looked like the Jacks might mount a rally, particularly when they cut a 15-point deficit down to 61-55 with 6:22 remaining.

Unlike that first meeting in Brookings (in which USD squandered a 20-0 start to the game), however, the Coyotes never slowed down.

Three players in particular USD keyed on shutting down, George Marshall, Deondre Parks and Reed Tellinghuisen, combined to go 6-of-30 from the field for 24 points.

“Those guys usually have pretty good numbers, and I thought we did a really good job on them,” USD senior Brandon Bos said. “It was all five of us on the floor helping each other out.”

Junior Tre Burnette continued his strong play of late, scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds for the Coyotes, who also got 17 points from junior Casey Kasperbauer and 12 points from Bos.

Senior Cody Larson had a double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds for SDSU, which will open tournament action against No. 8 seed Western Illinois (8-18, 3-12) on Saturday at 6 p.m.

“I want to be playing well at the end of the season, not playing like this,” Nagy said. “We’ve got to have a better week of practice, and that’s on me.”

In the case of the Coyotes, they will be the No. 5 seed and will play Fort Wayne next Sunday at 6 p.m. Seed placing aside, they haven’t wavered on their ultimate goal, Smith said – winning the Summit League championship.

“I know it’s a really lofty goal, we fully understand that, but our guys believe it,” Smith said.

“I’d rather be a good team playing great, than a great team playing good, and I’m not sure where we’re at in there.”

A performance like Saturday no doubt helps that goal, according to senior center James Hunter.

“We can beat any one of those teams, and this is a big one,” he said. “It’s just a stepping stone.

“We’re not going to live on this or anything.”

You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at www.yankton.net.

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (21-9, 12-4)

Reed Tellinghuisen 2-9 3-3 9; Cody Larson 9-15 6-10 25; Deondre Parks 2-10 2-2 7; Jake Bittle 5-8 0-1 12; George Marshall 2-11 2-2 8; Anders Broman 0-1 0-0 0; Skyler Flatten 0-0 0-0 0; Keaton Moffitt 0-3 0-0 0; Cory Jacobsen 1-1 0-0 3; Zach Horstman 0-1 0-0 0; Lane Severyn 0-1 0-0 0; Connor Devine 0-0 0-0 0; Ian Theisen 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS 21-62 13-18 64.

SOUTH DAKOTA (16-15, 9-7)

James Hunter 3-5 2-2 8; Tre Burnette 8-12 1-2 19; Brandon Bos 3-9 4-4 12; Casey Kasperbauer 5-9 3-4 17; Tyler Larson 2-9 3-4 8; Trey Norris 3-4 0-0 7; Adam Thoseby 0-1 0-0 0; Duol Mayot 0-0 0-0 0; D.J. Davis 0-0 0-0 0; Eric Robertson 1-4 6-6 8; Austin Sparks 0-0 1-2 1. TOTALS 25-53 20-24 80.

Halftime: USD 44-34. Three-Pointers: USD 10-20 (Kasperbauer 4-7, Burnette 2-2, Bos 2-3, Norris 1-2, Larson 1-5, Thoseby 0-1), SDSU 9-27 (Bittle 2-4, Marshall 2-4, Tellinghuisen 2-8, Larson 1-1, Jacobsen 1-1, Parks 1-6, Moffitt 0-1, Horstman 0-1, Severyn 0-1). Total Rebounds: USD 36 (Burnette 13), SDSU 33 (Larson 12). Assists: USD 14 (Bos 4, Norris 4), SDSU 9 (Larson 3). Turnovers: SDSU 9, USD 8. Personal Fouls: SDSU 21, USD 18. Fouled Out: Tellinghuisen. Attendance: 4812.

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