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Summit League Semifinal Recap: SDSU wins thriller, Omaha inches closer to history

NCAA Basketball: South Dakota State at Wichita State Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes games simply live up to the hype, and that’s exactly what happened in the state of South Dakota Summit League semifinal Monday night. A packed Denny Sanford PREMIER Center saw a thriller in the opener, while a program got a step closer to its first ever NCAA Tournament bid in the nightcap. Here’s a rundown of the action:

(4) South Dakota State 74, (1) South Dakota 71

Michael Orris wasn’t supposed to be the pulling the trigger in crunch time, especially from the perimeter. But that’s right where the South Dakota State guard found himself with under five seconds left and his team down by one.

“The play broke down and we didn’t get exactly what we drew up,” the graduate transfer said after the game. “The ball was in my hands, I knew I had to make a play.”

Orris’ deep jumper would fall, and lift the Jackrabbits to a 74-71 win over USD in front of an evenly-divided - and evenly-enthusiastic - Sioux Falls crowd. He was an unexpected hero in what has been an unpredictable SDSU season.

The Jacks’ 1-5 Summit start is now an irrelevant memory as they sit 40 minutes from a return to the NCAA Tournament in T.J. Otzelberger’s debut season. And on Monday, it wasn’t all because of Mike Daum. Although the Summit Player of the Year had 18 points (5-14 FG), Tyler Flack and the Coyotes made the night difficult for him.

USD got out to a fast, physical start and led by as many 16 points midway through the first half. Orris (15 first half points) almost single-handedly kept SDSU in the game, as the Jacks trailed by 11 points at the break.

They would take advantage of Trey Burch-Manning’s foul trouble, and a defense sagging off the SDSU guards, to cut into that deficit with easier looks in the paint. But it was a comeback that took nearly the entire second 20 minutes, as Matt Mooney, who tied a career high with 30 points, carried USD.

The sophomore hit a dramatic step-back three to break a 68-68 tie with 32 seconds left. But the lead was short lived, and would ultimately be erased on Orris’ jumper. It was a dramatic ending that fit an emotional game. Daum entered the post-game press conference with unmistakably red eyes, and Craig Smith broke down while talking about his senior center (Flack).

“You could feel the electricity, could feel the spirited atmosphere, and you could feel it from both sides,” Smith said after the game. “It was everything it was billed up to be.”

SDSU advances to play Omaha in the final in what will be a de-facto home game.

On the other side, the NCAA dream ends for South Dakota, but as the regular season champion ,the Coyotes have spot waiting in the NIT. It’ll be the program’s first such appearance, and a nice accomplishment in its ninth Division I season.

(3) Omaha 90, (7) IUPUI 62

The late game was not as thrilling, and that wasn’t something Omaha coach Derrin Hansen saw coming.

“I’m proud of the team tonight, I thought a lot of things could’ve happened,” he said after the game. “The outcome wasn’t one of them.”

IUPUI was unable to build on its upset win over second-seeded North Dakota State, falling into a 42-18 halftime hole against the shamelessly up-tempo Mavericks. Much of this was because of a dreadful first half from the field, as the Jaguars shot just 29.6 percent and missed all 11 of their three-point attempts.

This was lethal against a Mavericks team constantly in transition, generating easy looks at the basket. Omaha’s front line also hammered IUPUI on the glass, winning the rebounding battle by 16. Sophomore forward Mitch Hahn set a career high with 10 rebounds, and went on a personal 5-0 run early in the game that quashed some brief IUPUI momentum.

The Mavericks kept up the pressure in the second half, stretching the lead to 64-34 on a Hahn jumper with 12:20 remaining. Tra-Deon Hollins had 19 points and Tre’Shawn Thurman had a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) as Omaha advanced to its first Summit final.

For IUPUI, the loss likely closes the book on good careers for seniors Darell Combs, Matt O’Leary and Kellon Thomas.