SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – North Dakota State graduates just one senior this year, and Taylor Braun made a bold promise on behalf of his returning teammates after losing the Summit League title game to cross-state rival South Dakota State.
"We're going to win it next year," he declared after the loss.
Braun's team-leading 23 points Tuesday night were not enough to hold off the Jackrabbits and conference player of the year Nate Wolters as South Dakota State won 73-67 to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.
North Dakota State head coach Saul Phillips called Braun "our Alpha male" and praised the junior from Newberg, Ore., for his toughness.
"You'd be crazy not to think like he's thinking right now," Phillips said.
Braun also showed his toughness on the court, barreling into the paint for two consecutive three-point plays. Bison reserve Mike Felt chipped in nine points.
"They fought, no question about that," Phillips said. "Taylor was unbelievable."
Wolters struggled to get his chances for most of the game but he capitalized once he did, scoring 18 of his 27 points in the second half to earn the tournament MVP award.
The Bison held South Dakota State to 47.9 percent shooting, 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.
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."
The sellout crowd of 6,544 provided a home-game atmosphere for the Jackrabbits, whose campus sits 60 miles to the north. Tuesday night's crowd was the fourth highest for a Summit League title game and the highest since 1994.
Philips challenged the North Dakota State faithful to fill more of the seats with Bison green next year.
The Bison's only NCAA tournament appearance was in 2009, when the team captured the Summit League crown to win a bid but lost to Kansas 84-74 in the opening round.
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