So, after the first two games of their tough 4-game stretch, the UCLA Bruins are now 0-2 and they still have not defeated a team with a winning record.
Tonight, UCLA plays what is likely the easiest game of this 4-game stretch. But, don’t mistake the easiest game of the stretch as an easy game. The South Dakota Coyotes come into Pauley Pavilion as one of just five that already have 11 wins this season. The other four are Duke, Villanova, Purdue and Albany.
Now, with the exception of Albany, that sounds like pretty good company to be in, at least until you look at the teams the Coyotes have played and see that Duke beat them by 16 points. You’ll also see that their best win so far has been on the road against San Jose State this past Saturday.
So, while South Dakota is a “tournament team” this year or not remains to be seen, they are still the team immediately in front of the Bruins.
The Coyotes are led by juniors Matt Mooney and Tyler Hagedorn. Mooney is averaging 17.2 points per game, while Hagedorn has had two-straight 20-point games. Against San Jose State, he scored a career-best 27 points, raising his PPG average to 14.6 points.
Junior forward Trey Burch-Manning leads the team in rebounds per game with 7.4 and sophomore Triston Simpson leads the team in assists with 3.9 per game.
Look for South Dakota to play with three guards at all times as they do not even have a center on their roster. Sophomores Tyler Peterson and Brandon Armstrong will be the first two guards off the bench for Coyote coach Craig Smith while junior Nick Fuller will be probably be the first sub at forward.
Speaking of Smith, he is in his fourth season as the South Dakota head coach. He has a career record of 136-78 and he is 64-49 at South Dakota.