Summit League Men’s Tournament: South Dakota State Battles North Dakota State For
South Dakota State and North Dakota State began the transition from Division II to Division I together several years ago, and now, for the first time in the new era they face each other for the chance to play in the Big Dance.
When they step onto the floor at the Sioux Falls Arena tonight for the Summit League Men's Championship, both the Bison and Jackrabbits will know what it's like to win the conference's biggest game. NDSU did it in their first year of eligibility in 2009, SDSU did it last year.
Tonight's matchup features two prolific scorers in Nate Wolters and Taylor Braun, with a lot of size surrounding them on both rosters.
North Dakota State is one of just three teams in the Summit League to beat South Dakota State this season. That 65-62 victory came back in December , in Fargo, as the Bison shot 50 percent in the first half, led by as many as 13, and then hung on as the Jacks rallied and had a chance to tie the game when Jordan Dykstra's three-pointer missed at the buzzer.
The Jackrabbits evened the season series a month later with a 69-53 win in Brookings. In that game, SDSU rallied from a nine-point first half defect, shooting a blistering 57 percent in the second half, outscoring NDSU 38-16 in the final 20 minutes.
In two games against the Bison this season, Jackrabbit guard Nate Wolters has been the model of consistency, 26 points in the first game, 26 points in the second.
North Dakota State was without Braun for the second matchup, as he missed ten games with a broken foot. With him in the lineup, North Dakota State has not lost to a conference foe this season.
The other big battles tonight will be between the big men, 6'7 TrayVonn Wright and 6'8 Marshall Bjorklund for the Bison. 6'7 Tony Fiegen and 6'8 Jordan Dykstra for the Jacks. South Dakota State has had the edge inside in the series this season, plus five in rebounding and plus eight in points in the the paint against North Dakota State.
Both teams struggled in their semifinal wins. The Jacks were down 12 in the first half to Fort Wayne, before outscoring the Mastodons 40-22 in the second half for a 72-56 win. The Bison led by just four at the half against Western Illinois, despite holding the Leathernecks to just 25 percent shooting in the first half, before pulling away in the second half for a 55-43 win.
Tonight's winner goes to the NCAA Tournament. Tipoff is 8:00pm and will feature a national television audience on ESPN2.