It's gut check time for the South Dakota men's basketball team, who begin the week in second place in the Summit League standings but with as very crucial strecth ahead - three straight on the road.

It all starts tonight (February 1) in Omaha.

The Mavericks (11-11/4-5) have dropped two straight thanks to come crooked numbers. UNO allowed 56 second half points to Oral Roberts and 52 first half points at South Dakota State in those defeats.

The Coyotes won the first meeting, 86-69, shooting 52 percent in the first half for a 22-point lead at intermission. The USD defense was very effective against Omaha's three biggest offensive threats, holding Tre'Shawn Thurman, Marcus Tyus, and Tra-Deon Hollins to a combined 6-of-26 (23%) from the floor.

Tipoff is 7:00 PM in Omaha.

Saturday (February 4) the Coyotes travel to Fargo to play first place North Dakota State.

The Bison (15-6/7-1) have won three straight thanks to some red hot three-point shooting. NDSU has drained 36 three's during the stretch; guard Paul Miller has 12 during that run.

North Dakota State beat South Dakota 70-69 in Vermillion last month. The Bison led by as many as 17 before the Coyotes mounted a big rally and led by one in the final minute. But in the final 60 seconds, USD missed a pair of free throws while NDSU made two from the charity stripe to escape with the one-point win.

Tipoff is 2:00 PM in Fargo.

Last week, the Coyotes took care of business with a sweep at home.

Against Western Illinois, Wednesday (January 25), USD survived a poor shooting night (33%) to eek out a 62-55 win. The Coyotes made 21 free throws in the game, outscoring the Leathernecks by a dozen at the line. Tyler Hagedorn finished with a double-double (13 points/11 rebounds), Matt Mooney had 16 points to lead the team.

The USD defense limited WIU's top two scorers - seniors Garret Covington and Mike Miklusak - to just 4-of-20 from the floor (20%).

Against Denver, Saturday (January 28), the Coyotes welcomed Tyler Flack back after he missed seven games with an injury. Flack showed no signs of rust, scoring 19 points, on 7-of-12 shooting, in 20 minutes.

The game featured 16 lead changes and 16 ties, but the USD defense forced 18 Pioneers turnovers, converting them into 21 points in the 88-83 win.

I talked with Coyotes head coach Craig Smith about last week's sweep and this week's match-ups with Omaha and North Dakota State: