Top-seeded South Dakota was able to avoid an upset - just barely - in the Summit League quarterfinals. Second-seeded North Dakota State was not so fortunate. Here’s a rundown of the opening action from Sioux Falls, which did not lack for excitement.
#1 South Dakota 78, #8 Western Illinois 69 (OT)
The Coyotes bid to make their first NCAA Tournament nearly stalled in historic fashion. The #8 seed has never won a game in the Summit Tournament, and Western Illinois came close by forcing overtime after a back-and-forth game. Matt Mooney (24 points) summed it up after the game.
"Western Illinois is a good team. They gave us everything we could handle. I heard people say before that it's hard to beat a team three times and they really proved that tonight. It was tough. Every time we had a little bit of separation, they came back, and then we got a little more separation, and they came back.
The sophomore hit a three with 31 seconds left to give the Coyotes a three-point lead. But it was short-lived, as the the Leathernecks responded with a game-tying C.J. Duff three 20 seconds later. That led to overtime, where South Dakota’s league-best defense finally kicked in, holding Garrett Covington (25 points) and Western Illinois to just one point and 0-for-9 from the floor.
The Coyotes, who are now on a seven-game winning streak, await the winner of #4 South Dakota State and #5 Denver. They swept the Pioneers and split with the Jackrabbits, and a rubber game with SDSU would - safe to say - mean a juiced atmosphere at the Sanford Premier Center.
#7 IUPUI 76, #North Dakota State 57
For the first time in four years, the Bison will not be a part of the Summit title game. IUPUI removed NDSU from the equation with a 32-14 run over the final 13:31 to break a one-point game wide open. The Jaguars forced five turnovers over that stretch, and seemed to be continually in transition or knocking down contested shots at the rim.
Despite struggling throughout the year, IUPUI’s defense held Bison, except for Paul Miller, in check. The 57 points given up were far and away the lowest the Jaguars’ have allowed to a league opponent this season. The IUPUI offense was led by junior Aaron Brennan, who tied a career-high with 18 points (which also came against NDSU).
NDSU, which finished the season losing five of its last nine games, says goodbye to a pair of key seniors in Dexter Werner and Carlin Dupree. On the other end, the Jaguars await the winner of #3 Omaha and #6 Fort Wayne. They split with both teams, most recently holding off a late Mastodon rally for a one-point win on Feb. 23.