Jacks claim second straight Summit League title
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Top-seeded South Dakota State won its second straight Summit League Championships crown on Tuesday with a 73-67 win over No. 3 seed North Dakota State in front of a raucous crowd of 6,544 mostly SDSU fans at the Sioux Falls Arena.
With the win, the Jackrabbits punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in as many years and improve to 25-9 on the season.
"I thought being in the championship game last year was helpful to our players. Last year it felt a little overwhelming and we were very tense and tight in the game, even though we were expected to win it," head coach Scott Nagy said. "NDSU is a tremendous basketball team, particularly with (Taylor) Braun back. They are great defensively, we struggled to get good shots them, and with him back, they're much better offensively. We knew we would have to play tough, we knew we would have to play great defense, and I thought, defensively this was as good as I've seen our guys in a long time."
The Bison, who fall to 24-9 on the season, scored first and after a couple of quick lead changes, opened an early 7-3 lead. The Jacks responded with a 10-0 run to go up 13-7 with 12 minutes and 10 seconds left in the first half, and never trailed again in the game.
Despite not ever trailing again, the Jackrabbits never really pulled away either, as the Bison kept the lead in single digits for the entire half before the Jacks took a 29-25 lead into the locker room.
The SDSU lead reached double figures for the first time at the 16:35 minute mark of the second half on a Brayden Carlson 3-pointer from the left side that put SDSU up 11 points at 36-25. SDSU would push that lead to as many as 12 on a Jordan Dykstra layup and-1 with 11:45 to play.
NDSU came right back with a Braun 3-pointer on the other end, and kept the lead under 10 points for all but a 17 second span between a Nate Wolters jumper at 9:26 that put SDSU up 52-42 and a Mike Felt 3-pointer at the 9:09 mark that cut the lead to 52-45, which started a 10-2 NDSU run that cut the lead to two points 52-52 with 7:24 left in the game.
The Jacks came right back with a quick 8-2 burst to push the lead back to eight points at 62-54 on a pair of Tony Fiegen free throws with 3:39 on the clock. From there, the Jacks went 9-of-10 from the free throw line down the stretch to secure the win.
Wolters led all players with 27 points in the win, adding six each in rebounds and assists in earning tournament MVP honors for the second straight year. A now two-time all-tournament team selection, Dykstra finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, while first-time all-tournament team selection Fiegen finished with 12 points.
Braun, who also earned all-tournament team honors, scored 23 points to lead the Bison. Both TrayVonn Wright and Mike Felt both added nine points in the loss.
Fort Wayne's Frank Gaines rounded out the all-tournament team selections.
The Jackrabbits now wait for an NCAA Tournament opponent, which they learn on Sunday, in a live selection show on CBS at 5 p.m.
NOTES: NDSU leads the all-time series with SDSU 109-98 ... SDSU leads the postseason series tied 3-2 ... Tuesday's game marked the second time SDSU and NDSU met in a conference tournament title game, the first being a 79-75 SDSU win in the North Central Conference Tournament on Feb. 23, 1980 in Brookings ... the win sends South Dakota State to the NCAA Tournament for the 26th time in school history, the second time at the Division I level ... Wolters earned his second consecutive Summit League Championships MVP award after averaging 21.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game ... Wolters scored in double figures for the 71st game in a row and for the 114th time in his career, and scored at least 20 points in game for the 19th time this season and for the 50th time in his career ... Dykstra earned all-tournament team honors for a second straight year, and scored in double figures for the 23rd time this season and for the 58th time in his career ... Fiegen took home all-tournament team honors for the first time after scoring in double figures for the 20th time this season and for the 41st time in his career