VERMILLION, S.D.—South Dakota led Denver from start to finish, but it got close late before the Coyotes emerged with an 80-78 win over the Pioneers Sunday inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
Tyler Hagedorn led South Dakota (10-7, 1-2 Summit) with 26 points for his seventh 20-point effort of the season and third in the last four games. Tyler Peterson was 5-of-5 from the field and made six free throws for 17 points. Cody Kelley added 16 points including four free throws in the closing seconds that sealed the win.
Denver (4-13, 0-3) got 26 points and nine rebounds from Jase Townsend, who made 9-of-11 from the field. Ade Murkey totaled 19 points, seven boards and five assists. Freshman Robert Jones chipped in 15 points, one shy of his season high.
"After losing some close games recently, and getting Triston [Simpson] back out on the floor, it was good to get a win," said head coach Todd Lee. "Both teams were coming in 0-2 and both teams were desperate to win.
"Hags played really well. Offensively, he did a good job. We were able to go to him down the stretch and Cody Kelley and Tyler Peterson played really well. I think our league is a wide open race and there will be a lot of close games. Anybody can beat anybody."
South Dakota made eight of its 11 three-pointers in the first half and took a 38-31 lead into the break. Hagedorn and Kelley combined to make 5-of-8 from beyond the arc in the opening stanza, and the Coyotes combined to shoot 51 percent from the field.
The Coyotes made it a double-digit lead on three separate occasions in the second half including a 50-38 advantage on a triple from Triston Simpson with 15 minutes to go and a 61-51 lead near the midway point following two free throws from Simeon Jovic.
The lead stayed between 6-9 points up until a Townsend jumper made it 73-68 with 2:30 left. He made it a one possession game a trip later with two free throws that made it 73-70.
South Dakota's final 14 points of the game came from the free-throw line. The Coyotes made 19 of 21 from the stripe over the final 11-plus minutes until Peterson missed a pair with 0.7 seconds remaining.
Denver got one possession when it was a one-score game and Murkey drew a foul trailing 76-73 with 18 seconds to go. He made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 76-74, and Denver fouled Kelley who converted both free throws with 13.6 seconds left to make it 78-74.
Townsend was fouled with nine seconds left and made a pair to make it 78-76. Kelley was fouled and stepped up to make two more with seven seconds to go to effectively ice the game.
The win stopped South Dakota's four-game skid while Denver dropped its eighth in a row dating back to Dec. 3. The Coyotes have won seven of their last eight games against Denver. The rematch is Jan. 30 in Colorado.
South Dakota stays home to host Omaha in a women's and men's doubleheader Saturday with 1 and 3:30 p.m. start times, respectively.