Jacks move on to NCAA Tournament

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits (18-16) are going dancing in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. They defeated Omaha Mavericks 79-77 in the Summit League Tournament finals.

Mike Daum, with a black eye he presumably got against South Dakota, led the offensive charge for the Jackrabbits as he scored 37 points and had 12 rebounds on the night. Daum was one point away from tying the Summit League Tournament Championship Game record.

Daum was named Summit League Tournament Most Valued Player, and was named to the Summit League All-Tournament team. Junior guard Reed Tellinghuisen was also named to the tournament team.

It didn’t come easy for the Jackrabbits. Again, they struggled in the opening minutes of the first half.

“Obviously tonight was another game that was challenging for us early and we didn’t get off to the start we would have liked at the beginning of the game or after halftime but as the game settled in I thought our guys really locked in defensively,” head coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

SDSU has stuck to a formula throughout the year where they have tried to win in three categories: value the ball, out-rebound and get to the free throw line.

Tonight, was a different story.

The Jackrabbits turned the ball over 19 times to just the Mavericks’ nine. Omaha also got to the free throw line seven more times than the Jackrabbits, but just made one more free-throw. On the rare occasion the Jacks got to the line they made it count.

However, the Jacks owned a plus 19 rebounding advantage over Omaha.

“It was absolutely the story of the game … those are some gutsy plays,” Otzelberger said about the rebounding advantage. 

Two other Jackrabbits reached double figures. Tellinghuisen had 11 points and Chris Howell scored 12 points.  Tevin King made timely plays on the defensive side as he came up with two key blocks and a steal.

For Omaha, they had four players reach double figures as Tre’ Shawn Thurman led the way with 21 points. Other contributors were Tra-Deon Hollins with 18 points and four steals. Marcus Tyus helped the cause with 17 points and five steals. Mitch Hahn also contributed as he had 14 points.

It seems like it was just weeks ago that fans were questioning the zone defense the Jacks were running and if they were even going to make the Summit League Tournament, much less the NCAA Tournament. The Jackrabbits, at one point were just 1-5 in conference play.

“I wasn’t thinking about making the NCAA tournament, I was thinking about the next day,” Otzelberger said.

Now, South Dakota State will have to wait for Selection Sunday to see who their future matchup will be.

According to Tellinghuisen and Daum, they promised senior guard, Michael Orris a NCAA appearance on his visit.

South Dakota State became the fourth consecutive school to win back-to-back Summit League Championships. This was the fifth championship game the Jackrabbits have played in six seasons.

The 68-team bracket will be announced on Selection Sunday, which will air on March 12 at 4:30 p.m. on CBS.