Jacks down ‘Dons, advance to Summit Finals
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - South Dakota State trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half of Sunday's Summit League Semifinals, but the top-seeded Jackrabbits used a 9-0 run to get back in the game and a 22-3 run to secure the 72-56 win over No. 5 seed Fort Wayne and advance to Tuesday's league finals.
"It was a tale of two halves for us, I think the players would admit that we were pretty soft in the first half. The plan was to get off to a better start, I mean the first two times we played these guys, they just out-physical'ed us, and so I thought we were prepared and we weren't," head coach Scott Nagy said. "I was proud of the way the kids didn't panic. I mean, we're a group where we've got enough veterans that we're not going to panic. And then in the second half, we guarded and we didn't give up. They were shooting thirty nine percent, I see they missed fourteen shots and we didn't give up one offensive rebound in the second half and for us that is a difference. They had seventeen rebounds the whole game, we had 29 and that's the big key for us. We were good offensively; we shot the ball and all that stuff's great, but that stuff doesn't win championships. The defense and rebounding is going to win it for us."
South Dakota State improves to 24-9 with the win, while Fort Wayne's season comes to an end with a 16-17 record.
The Mastodons came out hot, converting on four of their first five possessions to open the game on a 10-0 run just over three minutes into the game.
A Chad White jumper would end the run, but IPFW came right back and pushed the lead to 12 points at 23-11 with just over 11 minutes left in the first half.
The Jacks responded to the Mastodon's largest lead of the game with a 9-0 run that cut the IPFW lead to 25-23 with 4:20 on the first half clock.
SDSU would come back to take a short-lived 32-31 lead with 1:44 before half, but went into the locker room down two at 34-32 after Frank Gaines hit a triple with under a minute to go in the opening stanza.
After a couple of ties and a couple of lead changes to start the second half, Nate Wolters broke a 45-all at the free throw line, which marked the start of a 22-3 SDSU run that ended with an insurmountable 67-48 Jackrabbit lead with 6:27 left in the game.
Wolters led a trio of Jackrabbits in double figures with 18 points, and tied a career-high with 12 assists. Tony Fiegen finished with 16 points, while Jordan Dykstra added nine points to go along with his game-high nine rebounds.added 17 points in going 6-for-7 from the field, 4-for-5 from 3-point range.
Gaines led all players in the game with 25 points. No other Mastodon player scored in double figures.
The win propels the Jacks to the Summit League Championship Finals for a chance to defend their 2012 tournament title. SDSU plays either No. 2 seed Western Illinois or No. 3 seed North Dakota State for the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. on ESPN2.
NOTES: SDSU leads the all-time series 11-8, with wins in each of the last eight meetings ... SDSU holds a 2-1 in The Summit League Championships ... SDSU improves to 7-3 all-time in The Summit League Championships and to 2-2 all-time in The Summit League Championship Semifinals ... SDSU moves to 13-1 on the season when at least one player records a double-double, to 4-0 on neutral floors and to 11-0 when holding an opponent to fewer than 60 points ... Wolters scored in double figures for the 70th game in a row and for the 113th time in 126 career games ... 11 of the 13 games in which Wolters did not score in double figures came during his freshman season in 2009-10, the other two came during his sophomore season in 2010-11 ... Wolters recorded his sixth double-double of the season and the 11 of his career ... Wolters tied a career-high with 12 assists, equaling a mark set at Oakland on Jan. 26, 2012 ... Wolters boosted his school record for career points to 2,336, his career assists record to 657 and his career free throws made record to 635 ... White scored in double figures for the 21st time this season and for the 49th time in his career ... White took over sole possession of fifth all-time at SDSU in 3-point field goals made with 169 in his career... Fiegen scored in double figures for the 19th time this season and for the 40th time in his career