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South Dakota (12-17) vs. Denver (15-14)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Sunday, March 9, 7 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Sioux Falls Arena (7,100) -- Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Television: Midco Sports Net, FCS. Home Record: South Dakota 10-3, Denver 9-4. Away Record: South Dakota 2-13, Denver 5-8. Neutral Record: South Dakota 0-1, Denver 1-2. Conference Record: South Dakota 6-8, Denver 8-6. Series Record: Denver leads, 3-2.

GAME NOTES: Playing in their third different conference in as many years, the Denver Pioneers find themselves locked up against the South Dakota Coyotes in the quarterfinals of the Summit League Tournament at Sioux Falls Arena.

In 2011-12, the Pioneers played their final season in the Sun Belt Conference before moving on to the Western Athletic Conference for the 2012-13 campaign. After just a year in the WAC, Denver decided to make the leap to the Summit, which is where the team stands for the time being. This season the squad struggled quite a bit, opening the campaign on a four-game slide and closing with back-to-back defeats on the road versus South Dakota State and North Dakota State.

Denver registered an 8-6 league mark which was good enough to finish fourth in the standings.

Going up against the fourth-seeded Pioneers are the fifth-seeded Coyotes, who come in two games below .500 in conference play (6-8), but just 12-17 overall in 2013-14. Similar to the Pioneers, South Dakota began the campaign with three straight defeats, and closed with setbacks versus NDSU and SDSU on the road as well.

This is just the sixth meeting ever between these two programs, with Denver clinging to a 3-2 edge after a split during the regular season.

The survivor of this contest will be back in action tomorrow night versus top- seeded North Dakota State, and the winner of that meeting will go on to the title game on Tuesday night.

Over the course of 14 conference games this season, the Coyotes had only two players start every outing, they being Trevor Gruis and Karim Rowson who finished with scoring averages of 10.9 ppg and 7.6 ppg, respectively. A 49.1 percent shooter from the floor who refrained from attempting even a single 3- point shot not just in conference play but for the entire season, Gruis instead settled into the paint where he was responsible for a team-best 5.1 rpg and also rejected 15 shots, second only to Tyler Flack (9.6 ppg) and his 19 blocks. Brandon Bos matched Gruis in the scoring column, but the big difference there was that Bos shot only 36.0 percent from the field.

Taking into consideration all 29 games during the regular season, Brett Olson was the go-to guy at the offensive end of the floor more often than not for the Pioneers, resulting in his 14.7 ppg. Second on the team in assists with 100, Olson not only shot an impressive 43.8 percent behind the 3-point line, he was also 91.8 percent accurate at the charity stripe, and yet the team as a whole was just 72.1 percent as a group and was outscored by the competition by 101 points. Chris Udofia, second on the squad in scoring (12.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.4 rpg), he was tops with 117 dishes and 69 blocked shots, which is an unusual combination to say the least.

The Coyotes are far from a dominating offensive program, but then again so is Denver, but at least the Pioneers have some solid experience in Olson and Udofia which could easily be enough to carry the group through to at least the next round.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 68, South Dakota 64

03/09 10:22:14 ET

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