SIOUX FALLS - Leading by just one point at halftime, Nate Wolters put the Jackrabbits on his back in the second half of Saturday's Summit League semifinal matchup with Southern Utah, scoring 20 points in the second half in a 63-47 South Dakota State win.
"Honestly, the first half they beat us up. They were more physical than we were. They had seven offensive boards and they were beating us up," head coach Scott Nagy said. "We went back inside in the second half and started off by throwing the ball inside and pounding it inside."
The second seed Jackrabbits improve to 26-7 with the win, and advance to the league finals on Tuesday to face fourth seed Western Illinois, which upset top seeded Oral Roberts, 54-53, in the first semifinal of the day. Southern Utah ends its season with a 14-17 record.
SDSU won the opening tip and drew a foul four seconds into the game and used that momentum to jump out to an early 15-7 lead with just over five and a half minutes off the clock.
The Thunderbirds responded with a 9-0 run to take their first lead of the game at 16-15 with 11 minutes and 36 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Jacks regained the lead with 9:02 left in the half and never trailed again in the game, but let by just one at 28-27 at halftime, thanks to a 4-for-11 showing for SUU at the free throw line in the first half.
SDSU regrouped at halftime and opened the second half on a 16-3 run that put the Jacks up 44-30 with 13:49 left to play.
The T-birds would briefly cut the lead to single digits with just under 10 minutes on the clock, but the Jacks scored on their next trip down the floor and ran away from there to the final 16-point margin.
Wolters led all players in the game with 31 points, with seven rebounds and with six assists. Jordan Dykstra added 17 points and four rebounds in the win.
Damon Heuir led Southern Utah with 14 points, Ray Jones, Jr., added nine points in the loss.
Now just one win away from their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth at the Division I level, the Jackrabbits take on the Fighting Leathernecks on Tuesday at 8 p.m., in a game that can be seen live on ESPN2.
NOTES: SDSU improves its record against Southern Utah to 9-2; with wins in each of the last eight meetings ... Monday's game marked the first-ever meeting between the two teams in The Summit League Championships ... SDSU improves to 4-3 all-time in the tournament and to 4-0 this season on neutral floors ... the Jacks and T-birds played in front of an announced crowd of 6,484 at the Sioux Falls Arena ... the 20 second half points allowed in the second half marks a season-low for the Jacks in any half ... Wolters reached the 30-point mark for the sixth time this season, and for the 10th time in his career ... Wolters six assists gives him 194 for the season, tying him for the second best single-season total in SDSU history ... SDSU won the first two meeting with Western Illinois this season; 67-66 on Dec. 3, in Macomb, Ill., and 74-57 on Feb. 23, in Brookings