UND men's basketball: Sioux seek to break from Coyotes' grip
Since UND made the move to Division I, Sioux basketball has seen a lot of changes. One thing, however, hasn't changed -- South Dakota's dominance over the Sioux. The Coyotes have won 11 straight regular-season games against the Sioux, including l...
Since UND made the move to Division I, Sioux basketball has seen a lot of changes.
One thing, however, hasn't changed -- South Dakota's dominance over the Sioux.
The Coyotes have won 11 straight regular-season games against the Sioux, including last week's 12-point win in Vermillion.
The Sioux have a shot to end that streak tonight at Ralph Engelstad Arena, where both schools will take part in the Meltdown at the Ralph -- the event that has the UND men's and women's teams playing basketball in the school's 11,000-seat hockey arena.
It's also a Great West Conference game, one both teams need to win after 1-1 starts in league play.
"They've been talented for so long," UND coach Brian Jones said of the Coyotes.
Both schools are on the same timeline in making the jump to Division I. They both have a long history as rivals, and South Dakota has written most of the chapters as the Coyotes are 35-15 against the Sioux since coach Dave Boots took over the program 21 years ago.
The Sioux, however, have defeated South Dakota in the teams' last two postseason games, including last year's 68-66 win in a postseason independent tournament.
And Jones was optimistic after last week's game in Vermillion, a 76-64 South Dakota win. For most UND players, it was the first time they've played in the DakotaDome.
"Going into that building, you don't know what to expect," Jones said. "Generally, you don't play well the first time there. But our young guys played extremely well. I had a bunch of USD people come up to me after the game and say how much we've improved the last few years."
South Dakota was picked to win the Great West Conference title. But the Coyotes are coming off a loss at Utah Valley on Thursday. A week ago, UND won at Utah Valley, so there is considerable optimism for the Sioux, who had to endure a brutal nonconference schedule that saw UND go 2-13.
"We did a good job as a program in stressing that it's a new start," Jones said. "It's comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges.
"And we came out with a sense of urgency. Our guys really challenged each other in the practices leading up to last week. That's where I felt we won the Utah Valley game.
"We executed both nights. Our guys went out there with no fear and stuck to the game plan both nights."
A win against South Dakota is important because the Sioux play their next three Great West games on the road.
"We're getting a better feeling and we know the competition is more at our level," Sioux senior center Derek Benter said. "That gives us more confidence and that's why we're playing better."
Both programs have played demanding nonconference schedules.
The difference is that South Dakota -- 9-9 overall -- played the schedule with an experienced team, led by 6-foot-8 Tyler Cain -- the preseason player of the year in the Great West.
The Coyotes are No. 260 in the latest RPI, one of the most important gauges in ranking college programs. Also, the Coyotes have played four teams in the top 77 of the RPI. UND is No. 318 in the latest RPI.
Jones, however, knows South Dakota has the potential to wipe out last week's Sioux progress.
"We're a confident group right now," Jones said. "But we have to remember the hard work that went into last week."
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Who: South Dakota vs. UND.
When: 7 p.m., Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV/radio: FSSN (Channel 23, GF); KSNR (100.3 FM).
Records: UND 1-1, 3-15; South Dakota 1-1, 9-9.
Of note: South Dakota was the preseason pick to win the Great West Conference title.