Don’t ask South Dakota State men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy about whether he feels good that his second-seeded Jackrabbits are facing fourth-seeded Western Illinois, rather than top-seeded Oral Roberts, in today’s Summit League Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game.
“(Western Illinois head coach) Jim (Molinari) has done an unbelievable job. And, he has got a lot better players now. He is coaching the way he wants to coach now,” he said after Tuesday’s semifinal win over Southern Utah.
SDSU guard Nate Wolters compared the Leathernecks to SUU, a team that gave the Jackrabbits fits for the first 20 minutes Tuesday.
“They are a lot like Southern Utah. They are really good defensively and well-coached,” he said. “So, it should be a fun game and one of the games you want to play. It should be a lot of fun.”
The junior guard has thrown his hat in the ring for tournament MVP, following up his 22-point opening round performance with a 31-pointer in the semis. He has also had seven rebounds and six assists in each of the two tourney games.
Jordan Dykstra has posted 12.5 points a game in the two games, with Brayden Carlson (8.5 ppg), Tony Fiegen (7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.5 apg) and Griffan Callahan (5.5 ppg) rounding out the Jacks’ first five.
Taevaunn Prince (6 ppg) has provided the most offensive support off the bench, including a 10-point effort in the Jacks’ opening round win over IUPUI. Several others have contributed minutes off the bench, but SDSU had just two points of reserve scoring against SUU.
Terell Parks has led Western Illinois in the tournament. After posting 13 points and 11 rebounds against North Dakota State, the final two of his team-high 14 points proved to be the game-winner in the Leathernecks’ upset of ORU.
“I just back them down and gave them my signature move and shot it,” Parks said of the game-winner. “I thought I got hit on the elbow but it still went in.”
Obi Emegano has also averaged 13.5 points per game in the tournament, notching 19 against NDSU. Ceola Clark (12 ppg) and Jack Houpt (9 ppg) have also been steady contributors this week. Tommie Tyler (2.5 ppg) has been a solid worker at guard, rounding out the Leathernecks’ first five.
WIU last made the league final in 1997, and won its only tournament title in 1984, before the league had an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Leathernecks made ORU the first 1-seed to miss the title tilt since 1993.
The winner of tonight’s 8 p.m. contest will be appearing in its first-ever NCAA Tournament.
Press & Dakotan Assistant Sports Editor Jeremy Hoeck (@jhoeck) will be at the tournament covering the game. Follow him on Twitter to receive updates.