Throughout the entire Summit League conference schedule, one thing was guaranteed to happen. Sioux Falls was going to host one heck of a basketball tournament in March.
Even though it was as obvious, another thing seemed destined to happen: a title bout between South Dakota State and North Dakota State. Doesn’t any other matchup in the Summit League Championship game just feel wrong?
Both happened in the Denny Sanford Premier Center the past week as the teams competed for the Summit League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In front of a pro-Jackrabbit crowd all tournament, SDSU battled back against Oral Roberts University in the quarterfinals with a 10-0 in the last 1:55 to advance to the semifinals.
In that next round, the Jackrabbits gave up a 29-4 run to the University of Denver starting in the first half and stretching to eight minutes left in the game when SDSU scored their first point of the half. The Pioneers were up 49-36 with 5:08 left, but the Jackrabbits again battled back to tie and take the lead in the last minute.
Then, Denver’s Joe Rosga was fouled with 1.2 seconds left to put him on the line for a chance to tie and then win the game. The nation’s ninth best shooter missed the front end of the 1-and-1, and the Jacks were on to the championship.
SDSU must have been taking notes from the Bison’s semifinal comeback performance against top-seeded Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne.
Down 18 points in the first half and 15 points at halftime, NDSU fought its way back to draw within one point of the Mastodons with 43 seconds left. After a defensive stop, junior Carlin Dupree hit a layup with four ticks left to send the Bison to their fourth consecutive appearance in the Summit League Championship.
Like most of the Summit League, the North Dakota State Bison ran into a Mike Daum-freight train in the title game. Daum handled almost everything head coach Dave Richman could throw at him, including an immediate double-team every time he touched the ball.
Late in the game, the Bison turned to senior Kory Brown to front the Summit League Freshman of the Year in the post. Once Brown fouled out, freshman Khy Kabellis continued the fronting strategy even though he was giving up six inches on Daum.
The Bison didn’t allow Daum to score after switching defenses in the last three minutes, but the damage was already done.
Daum’s 18 points lead the Jackrabbits to a third ticket to the NCAA Tournament in the last five years.
The Bison will have to see if their 20-13 record overall is good enough for an invitation to play in the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.