South Dakota State wins Summit League, NCAA berthSIOUX FALLS — South Dakota State University men’s basketball team will dance again.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
SIOUX FALLS — South Dakota State University men’s basketball team will dance again.
Behind 27 points from star guard Nate Wolters, the Jackrabbits clinched their second straight trip to the NCAA tournament with a 73-67 win over rival North Dakota State University with 6,544 in attendance Tuesday at the Sioux Falls Arena.
Wolters finished the game on 8-of-15 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line to go with his six rebounds and six assists.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” the senior said. “To be able to win two times in a row is amazing.”
After the Jackrabbits evened the game at 7 in the early going, SDSU never relinquished the lead and held advantages both inside the paint and out on the wing. SDSU made a difference at the free-throw line as well, shooting 21-of-23 from the line.
Despite SDSU’s control — leading by as much as 12 points in early in the second half — the title game hung in the balance until the 7:24 mark in the second half as NDSU pulled within two points. On the following possession, Wolters drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with a hand in his face and the shot clock running down to put SDSU up five points and safely ahead the rest of the way.
“I thought being in this last year was helpful to our players,” SDSU coach Scott Nagy said. “Even though we were expected to win this year and we were the No. 1 seed, we’ve handled it all year. We’ve taken everyone’s best shot.”
Wolters got his fair share of help in the win. Forwards Jordan Dykstra and Tony Fiegen each finished with 18 and 12 points, respectively, and both were selected for the all-tournament team. Wolters is the third player in conference history to win back-to-back conference tournament MVP awards.
“We were confident coming in,” Fiegen said of the Jacks’ attitude. “We realized we had a target on our back but we’re experienced and we couldn’t let it affect us.”
NDSU was led Taylor Braun, who finished with 23 points on 9-of-18 from the field, and while Braun carried the heavy load for the Bison, the rest of his team was effectively shut down. No other Bison player had more than nine points.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Braun said. “Obviously, there was a lot on the line. They made a few more plays.”