Nate Wolters struggled to get his chances for most of the game. Once he did, the Summit League's player of the year proved worthy of the title and added another — tournament MVP.
Wolters scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half to lead South Dakota State past North Dakota State 73-67 on Tuesday night in the Summit League tournament finals.
The victory sends the Jackrabbits (25-9) to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
The Bison held South Dakota State to 47.9 percent shooting overall, and Kory Brown and TrayVonn Wright played Wolters tight to hold him to nine points in the first half.
"It's tough to find any driving lanes out there," Wolters said. "My team did a great job picking me up."
Jordan Dykstra had 18 points and seven rebounds for the Jackrabbits, a performance that head coach Scott Nagy praised.
"He was physical. He was active," Nagy said. "He showed up in a big moment tonight."
The sellout crowd of 6,544 provided a home-game atmosphere for the Jackrabbits, whose campus sits 60 miles to the north.
Nagy said South Dakota State's motto is "play like you're loved," because there's no pressure. He said the experience of winning last year's championship helped, as the team was intense but not tense.
"You go out and relax, and that's how we want our kids playing," he said.
Taylor Braun led North Dakota State (24-9) with 23 points, including two consecutive three-point plays where he aggressively sliced into the paint. Reserve Mike Felt chipped in nine points for the Bison.
"They fought, no question about that," said North Dakota State head coach Saul Phillips. "Taylor was unbelievable."
The Jackrabbits' Tony Fiegen, who contributed 12 points and began the second half by hitting back-to-back jumpers, complimented the Bison on a hard-fought game.
"They put it all out there, just as much as we did tonight," Fiegen said. "It was a good battle. They're obviously a good team."
South Dakota State took the lead just under seven minutes in but struggled the rest of the game to expand it.
North Dakota State kept the pressure on Wolters, but Phillips said he has a way of finding passing lanes to hit the open man.
"He makes passes that other guards just don't make," Phillips said.
The Jackrabbits' sole NCAA appearance came last year, when they earned a trip to the dance but fell in the opener 68-60 to Baylor.
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