With the help of a former Kansas State player, South Dakota made it a decent game against No. 25 Wildcats on the afternoon of New Year's Eve.
The leading scorer for South Dakota after transferring from Kansas State, guard Juevol Myles scored 13 points. Nine of those came in the second half.
With less than eight minutes to play, the Coyotes only trailed Kansas State by five.
Ultimately, though, South Dakota could not keep up with Kansas State, and the Wildcats defeated the Coyotes 70-50.
''Good game for about 30 minutes, and then they really turned it up and turned us over,'' South Dakota coach Dave Boots said. ''I was proud of our kids that we got off to a slow start and they came back and hung in there in the second half and had a good battle.''
Nino Williams scored 16 points for the Wildcats, and Rodney McGruder added 15. Karim Rowson led the Coyotes with 14 points, six of which came from free throws.
A significant portion of Myles' scoring also came from getting to the charity stripe. Throughout the game he drew fouls while attacking the rim, and he also caused some trouble for Kansas State ball handlers.
''I thought Juevol played pretty well - not just on the offensive end,'' Boots said. ''He had five steals, so I thought he competed defensively. I'm sure it was fun for him to play against those guys. I thought he had a pretty good game for us.''
Though the point guards got their points, South Dakota needed more production from its post players. Outrebounded by 15, the Coyotes (6-9) struggled on the boards and shot 32.7 percent from the floor.
Kansas State (11-2) entered halftime with a 12-point lead, but South Dakota cut that advantage in half before the Wildcats pulled away late.
The Coyotes started the second half with an 11-5 run. They trailed 37-29 when Trevor Gruis went to the free throw line with 15:13 to play and a chance to cut Kansas State's lead to just six points. He made both.
The teams traded baskets as the half continued, and South Dakota stayed close. With fewer than eight minutes to play, the Wildcats led 44-39.
''We screened better,'' Boots said. ''We didn't have very good movement the first half with our four and five and got that going a little bit better the second half. We got better ball reversal off that and opened up the floor a little bit.''
''We just tried to adjust a little bit with our four and five in the second half,'' Boots added, ''and I thought that helped us a little bit.''
The tide turned, however, when Jordan Henriquez converted a three-point play, beginning a 10-0 run for the Wildcats.
Williams was intentionally fouled on a breakaway layup and sank both free throws. On the Wildcats' ensuing possession Shane Southwell drained a 3-pointer. The next time down the floor, Southwell got a bucket in the lane, and the time after that he scored from the baseline, and Kansas State led 56-39 with 5:23 to play.
The Coyotes could not muster another comeback.
''They just turned it up defensively,'' Boots said. ''We tried to get it inside, didn't have much there. We drove to the basket, they blocked a couple shots.''
Kansas State created distance early and largely maintained it throughout the first half after jumping out to an 11-2 lead in the first five minutes. The Coyotes pulled within 15-8 minutes later when Brandon Bos converted a traditional three-point play and then sank a 3-pointer.
Kansas State's size in the post continually posed a problem for South Dakota. The combination of seven-footers Henriquez and Adrian Diaz made it difficult for the Coyotes to score inside early. Henriquez returned to the bench shortly after committing two quick fouls, but fellow reserve D.J. Johnson picked up the slack by scoring a second chance basket right after entering the game.
That shot started a 9-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 24-8 edge with 7:43 to play in the first half. Kansas State was outrebounding the Coyotes 14-5. At that point in the game, South Dakota was making less than 15 percent of its field goals.
''We struggle at this level, how physical the kids are, not only inside but on the perimeter,'' Boots said. ''They bump you on cuts, it's hard to get an uncontested shot off.''