Now It Gets Serious
The IUPUI Jaguars have arrived in Vermillion South Dakota, the home of the USD Coyotes. The ‘Yotes and Jaguars will meet for the 1st time in school history tonight at 8 EST. USD is the latest member in the Summit League and enter tonight’s games with a 1-7 league mark…only one game behind the 2-6 Jaguars.
After enjoying 10 of the past 13 games at home, IUPUI hits the road to finish the regular season with 8 of their last 11 on the road. The road has not been kind Todd Howard’s club and quite frankly the home was not all that great either. The Jags went 6-4 at home and a disappointing 2-4 in league play. Coach Howard is trying to put the disappointment behind him and the team. “We did miss out on a great opportunity, a huge opportunity, but I thought we played good enough to win some of those games and now we have to come together on the road.” With 10 league games to play IUPUI is looking at moving up the standings and securing a manageable seed in the Summit League tournament…a win tonight will go a long way to helping this team recover.
The Jaguars are winless on the road and they have not made things easy on themselves. In all 7 road loses the Jags have trailed at the half and would you believe IUPUI has held a second half lead only ONE TIME this season. For brief moment in their 2nd road game of the season IUPUI lead Milwaukee 35-33. The Panthers tied the game at 35 and never trailed again. It’s amazing, but the Jags have not held a second half lead in a road game since November 18…two months ago.
How do they change this disturbing trend? It’s not easy, but two players need to step up for the Jaguars. The first is 5th year senior Christian Siakam. During a break out junior campaign the 6-7 Siakam averaged 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in Summit League play. This season he is scoring only 6.4 and grabbing 5.3 rebounds in league play. By no means are those horrible numbers, but his minutes are way down from a year ago. The main reason is foul trouble. Siakam has picked up at least 4 fouls in 15 of the Jags 20 games. If he can return to his form from a year ago IUPUI will be a completely different team. He can hit 15 foot jumpers, he is relentless on the offensive glass, and he can only help when he is on the court and not sitting on the bench with 3 first half fouls.
The next player who can help IUPUI snap out of their road funk is newcomer Ian Chiles. The slashing sophomore scores 11.8 points per game at home, but only 5.4 on the road. Chiles has really good range and the ability to slash inside the paint. Coach Howard is looking for some players to take the scoring pressure off of Stephen Thomas and Alex Young. The duo combines for 33 of the 76.6 points the Jags score in league play.
The good news is only myself, the fans, and coaching staff are feeling the heat from this 2-6 start. The players are aware that they are off to a slow start and not in the race for a regular season title, but they are not worried. Junior guard Sean Esposito believes this team can and will turn it around. “We are not in a great spot, but the talent is here to win some games. We just need to get a couple of wins and then start peaking at the right time. You never what can happen once you get into the tournament.”
This weekend will go a long way to determining if the Jaguars get a chance to play in the tournament. Entering tonight’s game with USD the Jags are sitting in 8th place just one game ahead of Saturday’s opponent UMKC. Eight of the top 9 make the Summit League tournament (South Dakota is ineligible because this is their first year in the league).
The Coyotes call the DakotaDome home and it is a massive building. It was built back in 1979 for $8.2 million and the University has used the facility for just about everything. Here are some pictures of the structure.
The Dome is used for football, basketball, volleyball, track, softball, and oh yeah there is a swimming pool under the red stands. Impressive.
Charlie Westbrook leads USD in scoring (16.4ppg) and Mr. South Dakota Louie Krogman is second with 14.4 ppg. Krogman is a senior and is 11th in school history with 1,417 career points. Krogman is one of the most decorated high school players in South Dakota history. He is the state all-time leading scorer with 3,521 points…or 387 more than Indiana’s all-time leader Damon Bailey.
Hope you can join me for the broadcast and it’s time for the Jaguars to earn their first road win of the season…and take control of this season.