SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Second seed South Dakota State survived and advanced on Monday with a 63-47 win over sixth seed Southern Utah in The Summit League Championship semifinals. The win sets up a finals matchup with fourth seed Western Illinois, who upset top seed Oral Roberts 54-53 to earn its place in the finals, where the winner earns the league's autmatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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."
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.
RABBITS ON THE RADIO - Originated from the AM 570 WNAX studios in Yankton, S.D., SDSU men's basketball games can be heard on a total of five stations throughout South Dakota on the Jackrabbit Sports Network.
- 570 AM - WNAX - Yankton
- 910 AM - KJJQ "The Ranch" - Brookings
- 1060 AM - KGFX - Pierre
- 950 AM KWAT or 96.9 FM KDLO - Watertown
- 99.5 FM - KRKI - Rapid City
Pierre, S.D., native Tyler Merriam takes over the play-by-play duties in 2011-12, replacing six-time winner of the South Dakota Associated Press Sportscaster of the Year and 1998 National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association South Dakota Sportscaster of the Year, Steve Imming, who retired in 2011.
THE JACKRABBIT EXTRA ON GoJacks.com - Subscribers to the Jackrabbit Extra on GoJacks.com watch every Jackrabbit home game and select road games streaming live on the internet. In addition, subscribers can listen to every game, home and on the road, streaming live on the internet.
To learn more about the Jackrabbit Extra, or to subscribe, log onto GoJacks.com and click on "SIGN UP NOW"
THE JACKRABBIT INSIDER ON FOX - Fans of SDSU Athletics can get a weekly behind-the-scenes look at all 21 Jackrabbit varsity sports teams by tuning into "The Jackrabbit Insider."
Hosted by Tyler Merriam, the show airs on Sundays on KTTW FOX 17 at 10:30 p.m., and can also be seen on Fox Sports North at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays.
JACKS POST FIRST 20-WIN SEASON AT DIVISON I - The South Dakota State Men's Basketball team beat UMKC 75-62 on Feb. 11, for their 20th win of the season, and first at the Division I level. The program now boasts 20 seasons with at least 20 wins, nine of which came during the Scott Nagy era, with the last being a school-record 27 win season in 2003-04, the program's final season in Division II.
WOLTERS CLIMBS THE 1,000-POINT CLUB LADDER - Nate Wolters became the 42nd member of the SDSU 1,000-Point Club in a win over Sam Houston State on Nov. 22, and instantly began the climb up the all time list. Wolters enters tonight's game with 1,595 career points, good for fourth all-time at SDSU.
WOLTERS SETS SDSU JUNIOR SCORING RECORD - Already the SDSU sophomore scoring record holder, Nate Wolters added the junior scoring record to his list of accomplishments in the Jacks 75-64 win over IUPUI on Feb. 25. Wolters scored 635 points in 30 games, two games fewer than it took Chris White to score 633 points in 1990-91. He enters tonight's game with 688 so far this season in 32 games played.
WOLTERS CHASES ALL-TIME SCORING RECORD - Nate Wolters scored 907 points in his first two years as a Jackrabbit, including the SDSU sophomore record with 604 points. His SDSU junior record of 688 points this season gives him 1,595 career points, leaving him 337 points shy of the record of 1,931, set by Mark Tetzlaff from 1981-85.
MORE THAN JUST A SCORER - In addition to his scoring prowess, Nate Wolters continues his climb up the all-time assists charts at SDSU. His 188 assists as a sophomore last year represents the third best single-season total in SDSU history, and his 194 this season ties him for the second-highest single-season total at SDSU. Adding to that, his 468 career assists ranks third all-time at SDSU, four shy of second all-time at SDSU, and well on pace to break the all-time mark of 605 assists, set by Brian Norberg from 1995-99.
PERFECT AT HOME - The Jackrabbits closed their third perfect season at home with a 75-64 win over IUPUI on Feb. 25, for a perfect 14-0 mark at Frost Arena. The win also makes it 17 in a row for the Jacks at home. SDSU went a perfect 18-0 at home in 1984-85, and 17-0 in the 2002-03 season.
NOT JUST NATE - Nate Wolters leads the Jacks with 21.5 points per game and reached double figures in all 32 games he played in this season, but he gets plenty of help. In addition to Wolters' 32 games in double figures, the Jackrabbits combined for 82 double-figure performances this season in 33 games. At least four Jackrabbits scored 10 points in the same game 15 times this season, with four players reaching double figures nine times, five players reaching double figures five times and six players once.
DYKSTRA SETS SDSU THREE-POINT RECORD - Jordan Dykstra made his final two three-point attempts vs. Buffalo on Feb. 18, went 5-for-5 from beyond the arc against Western Illinois on Feb. 23, and made his first four three-point attempts vs. IUPUI in Feb. 25. That equals 11 consecutive three-pointers over a span of three games and a new SDSU record, breaking the old mark of nine in a row, set by Craig Jenkins over three games in 1986.
CALLAHAN FOR THREE - SDSU's lone senior Griffan Callahan entered the season with 88 career three-pointers and a season-high of 55, set last year as a junior. Callahan enters tonight's game with 73 threes this season for a career total of 161, good for fifth all-time at SDSU. In addition to the career total, Callahan hit a career-high seven three-pointers at Nebraska on Nov. 26, which ties him for third all-time at SDSU in a single game, something his older brother Garrett did twice.
JACKS BACK IN MID-MAJOR TOP-25 - After cracking the collegeinsider.com Mid Major Top-25 for the first time this season at No. 25 on Dec. 19., the Jacks moved up to No. 23 in the poll released on Dec. 26, and moved up to No. 21 in the Jan. 2 poll, but fell out of the poll to receiving votes in the next four polls. The Jacks climbed back into the poll on Feb. 6, at No. 22, only to fall out of the poll completely in the poll released on Feb. 13.
Dominating wins over North Dakota State and Buffalo got the Jacks back in the poll on Feb. 20, at No. 23, while wins over Western Illinois and IUPUI to end the regular season pushed the Jackrabbits to No. 21 in the poll released on Feb. 27. After a pair of league tournament wins, the Jacks moved up to No. 20 in the poll released on March. 5
IN THE MERRY OLD LAND OF OZ - The Jackrabbits beat major conference foes Iowa State in 2008 and Iowa in 2010, but neither the Big 12 Cyclones nor the Big Ten Hawkeyes entered those games with a 32 game non-conference winning streak at home or entered those seasons after making three-straight NCAA Tournament Appearances. The Pac 12's Washington Huskies brought both of those credential into their game with the Jackrabbits on Dec. 18, and while they still may make their four straight NCAA Tournament, the Jacks snapped the Huskies 32 game non-conference home winning streak with a convincing 92-73 win at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Wash.
Nate Wolters led the Jackrabbits with a season-high 34 points, adding five rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers. Four other Jackrabbits also scored in double figures, led by Griffan Callahan with 16 points. Chad White finished with 12 points, all of which came from beyond the three-point line, Jordan Dykstra added 11 and Tony Fiegen 10 points in the win.
A FIRST AT FROST - When ESPNU aired the Jackrabbits 86-65 win over Buffalo in the SEARS BracketBusters on Feb. 18, it marked the first-ever nationally televised game from Frost Arena.
NAGY NOTCHES 300th CAREER WIN - Already the most prolific coach in SDSU history, head coach Scott Nagy entered the 2011-12 season with 289 wins, just 11 shy of reaching the 300-win milestone, which he reached in the Jackrabbits 94-58 win over IPFW on Dec. 28. Nagy enters tonight's game with a 315-197 career record and a .615 winning percentage.
NAGY TEAMS WITH SAMARITANS FEET - Head coach Scott Nagy teamed up with Samaritan's Feet in each of the last three seasons to raise money and shoes for children around the world, including Haiti, and the cause really hits home for Nagy and his family, especially after a major earthquake shook the country on Jan. 12, 2010.
"My wife Jamie and I adopted our daughter Naika from Haiti, so we've seen first-hand the need for shoes there," Nagy said.
Nagy raised over $6,000 for the relief efforts in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and then took it to another level last season, when the entire Jackrabbit coaching staff coached in their bare feet against IPFW on Jan. 22, to raise money for shoes and shelters in Zimbabwe.
Nagy made it four years in a row this season when he coached barefoot in an 85-58 win over UMKC in Frost Arena on Jan. 14, and added a game on Feb. 18, when he coached in his bare feet in the Jacks nationally televised 86-65 win over Buffalo in the SEARS BracketBusters.
Jackrabbit fans can play their part again in 2012 by logging onto FirstGiving.com/fundraiser/coachnagy/barefoot and making a donation.
Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks (18-13, 9-9 Summit, 2-0 Neutral) - Picked to finish ninth, and not even qualify for the league tournament, the Fighting Leathernecks posted a 16-13 regular season record and a 9-9 record in league play. Not only did they exceed those expectations, but they earned a No. 4 seed in the tournament, beat North Dakota State in the quarterfinals and then ousted top seed Oral Roberts in dramatic fashion to earn their place in the finals tonight against the Jackrabbits.
The league's defensive player of the year, Ceola Clark III, leads the Leathernecks offensively with 13.6 points per game and with 142 assists. He also adds 3.8 rebounds per game and a team-high 47 steals. Obi Emegano adds 13.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, and Terell Parks 12.2 points and a team-high 9.2 rebounds per game.
The Series vs. Western Illinois -The Jackrabbits lead the all-time series 9-3, with wins in each of the last six meetings. The last Leathernecks win came in a 62-59 game in Macomb, Ill., on Feb. 7, 2009.
The First Meeting, at Western Illinois: Dec. 3, 2011 - Chad White hit a pair of free throws with less than a second on the clock at Western Illinois to put the Jackrabbits up 67-63. Good thing for the Jacks he did, because Western Illinois' Ceola Clark banked in a three-pointer from three-quarter court as time expired to make the final score 67-66, and an SDSU win.
The Jackrabbits and Fighting Leathernecks played to nine ties and 16 lead changes in the game, with seven ties and three lead changes in the first half before Western Illinois took a 25-24 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Each team led by as many as four points in a back-and-forth battle in the second half, before the Jacks went up for good at 59-58 on a White put back with two and a half minutes left to play.
The Leathernecks would cut the lead to one point with 30 seconds left, but White's free throws sealed the win with less than a second left, despite the desperation heave from Clark.
White finished the game with 12 points off the bench, as did Zach Horstman, which marks a season-high for the true freshman from Winner, S.D. Jordan Dykstra added 11 points off the bench, as the Jackrabbits got 41 points from their reserves, compared to 19 from the home team.
Nate Wolters tied for game-high honors with 17 points, adding seven rebounds and seven assists in the win. Griffan Callahan also tied for team-high honors with seven rebounds, but with five points, failed to score in double figures for a sixth straight game.
Obi Emegano led WIU with 17 points, Remy Roberts-Burnett added 16 and Ceola Clark an even 10 points in the loss. Clark also added a game-high nine rebounds.
The Second Meeting; at Frost Arena; Feb. 23, 2012 - Western Illinois held Nate Wolters in check at Frost Arena, but could not do the same to Jordan Dykstra, who tied a season-high with 23 points and went a perfect 5-for-5 from long range in a 74-57 win over the Fighting Leathernecks.
"Everybody I talked to this week was talking about the tournament, they weren't really talking about this weekend," head coach Scott Nagy said. "So we worked really hard to keep our players focused just on this game."
The Jacks opened the game on a 7-0 run, only to give up a 10-2 run that gave Western its first lead of the game with just under eight minutes off the clock.
The lead changed hands three more times in the next minute, before the Jacks went up for good on a Wolters layup with 11 minutes and nine seconds left in the first half, part of an 11-0 run that ended with the Jacks up 22-12 with 7:57 on the first half clock.
SDSU led 34-23 at halftime, and only let the Leathernecks cut the lead to single digits on their first possession of the second half. The lead would grow to as many as 20 points late in the second half before the final 17-point margin.
Dykstra went 8-for-13 from the floor overall to get his 23 points and led all players with eight rebounds. Taévaunn Prince scored 13 points off the bench, grabbed five rebounds and set a career-high with three assists. Wolters scored a season-low 10 points, but still finished with six assists and five rebounds in the win.
Tommy Tyler led the visitors with 15 points. Obi Emegano added 14 and Terell Parks 12 points in the loss.
The Jackrabbits finished the night 26-of-50 from the floor, 52 percent, and got 23 points from the bench, compared to just nine from the Leathernecks, who shot 45.8 percent from the floor on 22-or-48 shooting, including a 3-of-16 mark from three-point range, 18.8 percent. The Jacks finished the game 9-of-15 from distance for an even 60 percent.
SDSU won the rebounding battle 35-20, which led to 13 second chance points on 10 offensive rebounds. Western scored two points on its three offensive boards.
NEXT UP FOR THE JACKRABBITS - An SDSU win would send South Dakota State to the NCAA tournament for the 25th time in program history, but for the first time at the Division I level and for the first time at any level since the 2003-04 season.