In what was a crazy day in the first day of the Summit League tournament from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the top two seeds—Oral Roberts and South Dakota State—move on to the semifinals on Monday night.
However, both teams took completely different routes in gaining their wins.
Oral Roberts 71, IPFW 67
In the first matchup of men's action, Oral Roberts, the top seed of the tournament, narrowly escaped with a 71-67 victory over eighth-seeded IPFW. After leading the game by as many as 13, Oral Roberts saw IPFW mount an incredible comeback, allowing the Mastodons to teeter-totter with the lead towards the end of the game.
IPFW's leading scorer Frank Gaines (26 points, nine rebounds) helped charge the comeback by the 'Dons, hitting a three-pointer with nine seconds left to cut the Golden Eagle lead down to two.
Unfortunately for the pesky IPFW squad, that's where the train stopped as ORU's Steven Roundtree (11 points, six rebounds) nailed two free throws to close out the game, helping Oral Roberts to escape with the four-point victory.
While seeing the score in the end surprised me, it really shouldn't have based on my prediction for the tournament in my previous article. In that article, I mentioned the fact that ORU did beat IPFW twice this season, but only by a combined 15 points (11 at home, four on the road), meaning that IPFW had a better shot at beating ORU than I had given them credit for.
With that being said, one of the main reasons why the game was, in fact, so close, was because of the complete disappearance by Summit League Conference Player of the Year Dominic Morrison of Oral Roberts. He averages over 20 points per game, but finished the game with 10. Morrison scored seven points in the second half, but exited the game before its exciting ending after fouling out.
In order for Oral Roberts to continue winning in this tournament, Morrison needs to step up his game in order for the Golden Eagles to remain the favorites for that NCAA tournament bid.
South Dakota State 77, IUPUI 56
SDSU jumped out to an early 13-4 lead against the Jaguars and Nate Wolters (22 points, seven rebounds, six assists) took the lead from there.
Over the course of the game, IUPUI opted to go with a zone defense, which ultimately led to their undoing. Wolters excels in a zone setting as it allows for better spacing for his drives to the lane, which he did to perfection on Saturday night.
Beyond Wolters, however, the second-seeded Jackrabbits were led by double-digit scoring outputs by Brayden Carlson (12 points, four assists), Tony Fiegen (11 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Taevaunne Prince (10 points) in route to their 21-point trouncing of IUPUI.
Jaguars leading scorer and NCAA's active career points leader Alex Young was held in check for the entire game, only managing 10 points in the contest. Young finishes his career in college as one of the most highly touted potential draft picks in the conference.
SDSU came out with fire in their eyes and determination in their convincing victory, giving them all sorts of momentum headed into Monday's semifinal match against the Oakland-Southern Utah winner.
Wolters, once again, proved he can perform on the big stage, but didn't hog the spotlight, which is the identity to the Jackrabbits as a whole. Summit League second-teamer Jordan Dykstra finished the game with eight points, well below his average. Knowing his potential for tremendous scoring outputs, I fully expect Dykstra to play a much bigger role in the rest of the tournament.
Oral Roberts and SDSU keep the bracket intact thus far into the tournament, but (No. 3 seed) Oakland vs. (No. 6 seed) Southern Utah and (No. 4 seed) Western Illinois vs. (No. 5 seed) North Dakota State could spark up some upsets in Sunday's quarterfinals action from the Falls.
The Summit League tournament is shaping out to be one worth keeping an eye on for the next few days. Look for more exciting action in the games to come, culminating in a very intense conference championship game Tuesday night on ESPN2.