Notebook: Surprises abound on Day 2 of tourney


Balance carries the Jags in breakthrough win

The IUPUI’s women’s basketball team has had a spotty history in the Summit League Tournament. They finished second in 2008, made the semifinals in 2009 and did not qualify for the event in each of the last two seasons. Given the recent run, few had the Jaguars in position to make a mark on the tournament this year.

But with a 80-64 win over NDSU, the fourth-seeded Jags are headed to the semifinals to face the top-seeded Jackrabbits of South Dakota State. The way that was accomplished was unpredictable as well.

The Jaguars’ top scorer this season, Kerah Nelson was held from scoring in the first 32 minutes of play, finishing with seven points. In her place, IUPUI had four players reach double-digits in the win, including Emily Phillips, who hit four three-pointers in the game and led the team with 17 points. She had hit eight all season leading up to the quarterfinal meeting.

“We’ve had the change of mentality and we focused on the defensive part of things. We want to have them to have fun in a positive environment,” IUPUI head coach Austin Parkinson said of his first postseason win.

They did the trick defensively, too, holding Bison senior Abby Plucker to just eight points and hampered the NDSU offense to shoot 29 percent in the game.

“I thought our kids competed at the level that you need to compete to win a tournament game,” Parkinson said.

Kangaroos bounce to semis.

UMKC has had even less women’s success in the tournament, entering play Sunday 5-16 all-time in the event. That will not be the case in 2012, after the Kangaroos advanced to the semifinals with a 72-59 win over Oakland.

No team is surging right now at the end of the year like the ‘Roos, who have now won six straight since losing to SDSU on Feb. 11 in Kansas City.

“It’s huge,” UMKC head coach Candace Whitaker about the victory. “This is the same team we had last year. A year older and more experienced, you’ve been in a program longer and you’ve been hearing the same things over and over again, they start to kind of click. You start to figure things out.”

With second-seed Oral Roberts out of the tournament, the ‘Roos instead draw seventh-seed Western Illinois and have a solid chance to make the conference title game on Tuesday. A win could bring UMKC full-circle SDSU advances to the championship game as well.

Four-pointer helps Western to win

Ceola Clark III picked a pretty good time to come up with a big shot for his Western Illinois squad in their quarterfinal win over NDSU on Sunday night.

Down by a point, 51-50, with under a minute to go, Clark fired up a three-pointer from the left wing, making it and was fouled in the process. Clark converted at the stripe and fulfilled the four-point swing, putting the Leathernecks in front, 54-51 with 39.4 seconds left. NDSU turned the ball over on the ensuing possession when point guard Lawrence Alexander saw the ball bounce off his foot and out of bounds. In the words of NDSU head coach Saul Phillips in the press conference afterward, “Ballgame.”

“It was a huge shot and it got us over the hump. As a senior, I was willing to take that shot and I made it. I got knocked a little sideways and just tried to focus on the rim,” Clark said.

Pretty good for a team that was picked ninth in the preseason poll that is now among the final four teams left.

“Being preseason number nine was motivation for us and to win tonight was a great step. It’s great to be with these guys and be around this program right now,” Clark said.

“If you’re going to win in March, your best players have to step up and Ceola did that tonight,” WIU head coach Jim Molinari said. The win signified the Leathernecks’ first win the conference tournament in 13 years.

Western faces top-seed Oral Roberts to open the men’s night session on Monday.

Late surge for Southern Utah

Southern Utah rallied from down 11 points in the final three minutes to stun Oakland with a 84-82 win Sunday night.

Jackson Stevenett, who had 26 points, hit a tough shot with 12 seconds left to give the T-Birds the lead after being down 81-70 with 2:50 left and Sioux Falls Arena emptying.

Reggie Hamilton led all scorers with 31 points but missed three of his final four free throws and SUU’s Damon Heuir knocked down a three to tie the game at 82 with 1:09 left. Oakland hit 26 field goals in the game, 15 of them were three-pointers, a tournament record.