By Wayne Otto
College Basketball Columnist
College Sports Journal
Sioux Falls, S.D — The South Dakota State University men’s and women’s Jackrabbit basketball teams opened up defense of their 2012 Summit League basketball crowns at the sold out Sioux Falls Arena with two convincing wins.
The Jack men won the regular season championship opened their title defense with a methodical dismantling of the IUPUI Jaguars 66-49 behind the play of Summit League player of the year Nate Wolters’ 20-point performance.
Wolters, who had 16 NBA scouts in attendance on Saturday night, took control of the game in the second half with 10 points in the final 10 minutes to secure the victory.
The Jacks held a slim 31-27 lead a halftime before Wolters extended his double-digit game scoring streak to 69, the longest in the NCAA.
“The talk in the locker room is we can definitely tell the difference in being the hunted instead of the hunter. There’s a little more pressure, but we can’t pay attention to that,”said SDSU forward Tony Fiegen, who tossed in 15 points and grabbed a game high 10 rebounds.
Jordan Dykstra reached double figures for the 22nd time this season as he pitched in 15 points.
The Jacks will face the winner of the Oakland-IPFW game in the semi-finals on Monday. South Dakota State improved to 23-9 while IUPUI finished its season at 6-26.
In other men’s play, the second-seeded Western Illinois Leathernecks improved to 22-7 and advanced to Monday’s second semifinal with a come from behind 54-53 win over a pesky South Dakota Coyotes team.
WIU trailed 25-21 at halftime in a slow paced defensive game that is a typical coach Jim Molinari Leatherneck game.
All-league player Ceola Clark came to the rescue as he poured in 13 second half points on the way to a game leading 21.
The 6-3 senior was also a stopper on the defensive end as he held Coyotes sharp shooter Brandon Boss to 2-12 on field goal attempts.
The Leathernecks held a six-point advantage with a minute remaining and held off a late SD rally to win by one and advance to play the winner of UMKC-North Dakota State winner.
South Dakota finished its season at 10-20.
The 2013 Summit League tournament is on pace to break the all-time attendance record of over 40,000 spectators that was set last year. The semifinals and finals are already sold out.
Tickets for next year’s tournament went on sale Friday and sold 1,700 tournament books in the first hour and finished with over 3,000 sold on the day. It is safe to say that Sioux Falls is all “Jacked” up over the Summit League tournament.
Sioux Falls has hosted the Summit League tournament for five straight years and is under contract through the 2017 season.
The tournament will move next door to the currently under construction 12,000-seat arena in 2015. The Summit League is surely a blueprint for success at the NCAA mid-major level.
The regular season champion SDSU Lady Jackrabbits opened the tournament with a 67-53 win over the eight seed Oakland Grizzlies.
The Lady Jacks, 23-7, move into the semifinals against the Western Illinois-IPFW winner.
All-conference performer Ashley Eide led the Lady Jacks with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Katie Lingle came off the bench and also scored 18 and pulled down 9 of the SDSU 43 rebounds.
SDSU held a 35-22 edge then held Oakland to 31% shooting from the field to secure the victory and move on to the semifinals.
Oakland finished the season 9-20.
The second seeded IUPUI Lady Jaguars, 20-10, fought off several challenges from the UMKC Kangaroos (9-21) to seal a 59-47 win.
Kerah Nelson paced the Lady Jags with 18 points and had 10 rebounds. IUPUI out rebounded UMKC 47-27 in route to 24 second-chance points.
IUPUI will play the winner of South Dakota-North Dakota State game in the semifinals on Monday.