Summit League Men’s Championship: South Dakota State Beats North Dakota State, Returns to NCAA Tourney
In the final game of his storied career on South Dakota soil, Nate Wolters had a big second half to propel the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to their second straight Summit League Tournament Championship, 73-67 over North Dakota State, Tuesday night at the Sioux Falls Arena.
The senior from St. Cloud, MN scored 18 of his team’s final 28 points to secure SDSU’s place in the NCAA Tournament, their first as Summit League regular season and tournament champs.
Early on, there was no doubt that each team was going to rely on its best player in this title game. Wolters scored SDSU’s first five of the game, nine in the first 12:30, while North Dakota State’s Taylor Braun hit five of his first seven shots and finished the first 20 minutes with 12 of his team’s 24 points.
For the Jacks, Wolters was getting a lot of help from his supporting cast, especially junior Jordan Dykstra, who had a couple of key putbacks in the first half, and played tough in the post of NDSU big man Marshall Bjorklund, limiting him to just four first half points, while Dykstra notched six points and four rebounds.
SDSU turned an early four point deficit around in a hurry with a 10-0 run, to grab a 13-7 lead with 12:30 to play.
Each team shot 44 percent in the first half, but South Dakota State outscored North Dakota State 7-2 at the free throw line to grab a 29-25 lead at intermission.
In the second half, Wolters switched from scorer to facilitator, dishing out assists and letting Tony Fiegen and Brayden Carlson take over the scoring for a bit, as those two hit for the first 12 Jackrabbit points of the second half to push the lead to 11 with 12:40 to play.
That’s when the Bison’s three-point specialist went to work. Mike Felt came in off the bench to drain a trio of three-pointers over a four minute stretch, and just like that NDSU was back in it 54-52 with 7:15 left.
But then it was time for ‘Nater to Nate’, as Wolters took the game into his own hands, scoring 11 of SDSU’s final 19 points to punch the Jackrabbits’ NCAA ticket for the second straight year.
Wolters finished with 27 points, six rebounds, six assists, and four steals, scoring in double figures for the 71st straight game. Dykstra added 18 points and seven rebounds, Fiegen added 12 points.
Braun led the Bison with 23 on 9-of-18 shooting, but the SDSU defense held the talented Bison trio of TrayVonn Wright, Marshall Bjorklund, and Lawrence Alexander to just 24 combined points, on 38 percent shooting.
The win was the Jacks sixth straight in the tournament, as Sioux Falls once again played impressive hosts, setting another attendance record with close to 45,000 fans watching Summit League action over the four-day event.