VERMILLION — Every time South Dakota got close, Oral Roberts had an answer.

“We played better in the second half, felt like we had a chance to either take a lead or get it tied,” USD head men’s basketball coach Todd Lee said. “We just couldn’t make a big shot and missed a few free throws that were uncharacteristic.”

The South Dakota Coyotes men’s basketball team pushed within a basket multiple times in the second half, but couldn’t build enough momentum to take the lead and fell to Oral Roberts 79-71 to open Summit League play Monday night inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center in Vermillion.

“We need to take pride in defense and start thinking about getting stops and then going into offense and executing,” Tasos Kamateros said. “There were a couple guys (for Oral Roberts) that stepped up and hit some good shots, but the most important thing that we can focus on is taking pride in defense, one-on-one defense or team.”

The Coyotes trailed by 11 at the half 46-35. USD then cut the lead to two, 52-50 six minutes into the second half. The Coyotes got within one at 54-53 and 56-55 but never took the lead.

Kruz Perrott-Hunt got the Coyote offense going in the first half, hitting his first five shots, including a pair of three-pointers, but Max Abmas and the Golden Eagles responded to take the 46-35 halftime lead.

“It was just pushing the ball, my teammates got me open and it was off screens and things like that,” Perrott-Hunt said. “It wasn’t just an individual, it was definitely a team effort.”

The Coyotes rallied in the second half off of mid-range jump shots from Xavier Fuller and shots in the post from Kamateros.

ORU stretched a seven-point 73-66 lead after Abmas hit a three-pointer and was fouled on the shot. The Coyotes never got back within six points.

“He (Abmas) shoots it from deep and you’ve got to extend your defense out,” Lee said. “Then you get into rotation. We did a better job in the second half, but it is really hard (to guard him). They set screens for him , he’s really good with the ball, good first step. Where they set it (the screen) and where he shoots it is the toughest part about it.”

Oral Roberts hit 11-of-26 three-pointers on the evening, compared to 4-of-18 for the Coyotes. Abmas hit five threes and back-up guards Trey Phipps and Issac McBride went 4-for-7 from deep.

“We lost the game because we couldn’t guard Phipps and McBride,” Lee said. “You can’t have their backup guards go for 29 points on your home floor, that was the reason we lost the game.”

Abmas tallied 32 points to lead all scorers on the night. McBride added 16 points and Phipps 13.

Perrott-Hunt tallied 21 points to lead the Coyotes. Kamateros added 20 points and Fuller 19. The Coyotes are back in the SCSC Wednesday night when they host Kansas City.

“There are things we can build off of tonight,” Lee said. “And there’s obviously things that we need to get better at.”

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ORAL ROBERTS (7-5)

DeShang Weaver 1-2 0-0 2, Francis Lacis 0-1 0-0 0, Kareem Thompson 3-6 0-0 7, Max Abmas 11-22 5-6 32, Carlos Jurgens 3-8 1-1 8, Elijah Lufile 1-1 0-0 2, Trey Phipps 5-7 0-0 13, Issac McBride 6-10 3-3 16, Sir Issac Herron 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 31-58 9-10 82.

SOUTH DAKOTA (7-5)

Hunter Goodrick 2-4 1-3 5, Tasos Kamateros 7-14 5-6 20, Xavier Fuller 7-17 5-8 19, Kruz Perrott-Hunt 9-14 0-0 21, Mason Archambault 0-6 0-0 0, Nikola Zizic 2-3 0-0 4, Boogie Anderson 0-2 0-0 0, Erik Oliver 2-5 0-0 4. TOTALS: 29-65 11-17 73.

At the Half: ORU 46, USD 35. Three-Pointers: ORU 11-26 (Abmas 5-10, Phipps 3-4, Thompson 1-2, McBride 1-3, Jurgens 1-5, Weaver 0-1, Lacis 0-1), USD 4-18 (Perrott-Hunt 3-4, Kamateros 1-6, Goodrick 0-1, Fuller 0-2, Oliver 0-2, Archambault 0-3). Rebounds: ORU 34 (Lacis 5, Thompson 5), USD 31 (Goodrick 7, Kamateros 7). Assists: USD 8 (Kamateros 2, Archambault 2), ORU 8 (Abmas 4). Steals: USD 5 (Perrott-Hunt 2), ORU 2 (Weaver, Lacis). Blocked Shots: ORU 6 (Lacis 2, Herron 2), USD 0. Personal Fouls: ORU 17, USD 10. Turnovers: ORU 10, USD 3.

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