By Wayne Otto
College Basketball Columnist
College Sports Journal
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The South Dakota State Jackrabbits claimed the Summit League basketball championship for the second year in a row as Nate Wolters outdueled North Dakota State University and their star, Taylor Braun, in front of a sold out Sioux Falls Arena crowd of 6,544, 73-67.
Wolters — a Wooden national player of the year award finalist and also the conference player of the year — scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed six rebounds to go along with six assists and four steals to form an incredible stat line in the box score.
NDSU broke out to a 7-3 lead on a three pointer by Lawrence Alexander. Baskets by Wolters and Jordan Dykstra tied the score at seven.
Chad White’s layup with 13:37 remaining in the half put the Jacks up for good at 9-7. Wolters hit a jumper to extend the lead to eight at the 7:23 mark, 19-11.
The Bison battled hard and cut the lead to four, 29-25 at the half.
The Jacks looked as if they were going to run away with the tournament championship as they stretched their lead to twelve on a free throw by Dykstra on a three point play with 11:45 to play.
Back to back treys by Braun and Mike Felt cut the lead in half and energized the Bison fans.
In a very physical 2nd half, the Bison trimmed the lead to two at 54-52 with 7:24 remaining.
The Bison could never get any closer to the championship or NCAA tournament berth as the Jacks converted 21-23 free throws in the game and didn’t give the Bison many opportunities to score as they double teamed Bison center Marshall Bjorkman everytime he touched the ball in the post.
The Jacks kept pressure on the Bison as they shot 48% from the field and shot 4-7 from the three point arc in the second half.
Braun led the Bison in scoring with 23 while Felt and TrayVonn Wright added nine each. The Jacks out rebounded the Bison 29-26 and only committed seven turnovers.
The Jacks will know their March Madness destination on Sunday and will play in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year.
The Jacks lost to the third seeded Baylor Bears 68-60 in the second round last year
NDSU scored 36 points in the paint compared to 24 for the Jacks to stay in the game until the final buzzer sounded.
South Dakota State improved to 25-9 on the season and North Dakota State fell to 24-9.
South Dakota State has won back to back men’s and women’s titles.
Oral Roberts University is the only other school to accomplish this feat, in 2007 and 2008.
The Summit League Championships total attendance was 44,868 which is an all time record. The total eclipses the previous mark, set last season, by more than 4,000.
Wolters was named tournament MVP. Braun, Dykstra, Tony Fiegen, SDSU and Frank Gaines, IPFW, were named to the all-tournament team.