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Just 5 years into D-I existence, South Dakota St. going dancing


Mike Miller

It’s not uncommon for South Dakota State to score 52 points in a half. But even a rough offensive night wasn’t enough to keep the Jackrabbits from claiming its first bid to the NCAA tournament.

A 52-50 overtime victory against Western Illinois in the Summit League championship marked the Jackrabbits’ lowest point total of the season, but much of that credit is due to the Leathernecks’ fantastic defense. Open shots were not common.

(Yes, it was Jackrabbits vs. Leathernecks. Yes, That’s awesome.)

South Dakota State hit just 35 percent of its field-goal attempts, enduring a brutal night from its star scoring guard, Nate Wolters. The 6-4 junior averages 21.5 points per game, but made just five of 22 shots and finished with 14 points. Indeed, he didn’t even make a basket in the final 7:23.

Instead, it was teammates Chad White (two 3-pointers, one that came in OT) and Griffan Callahan (clutch free throws at the end of regulation that tied it up, then the game-winning 3-pointer in OT) who hit the clutch baskets at the end.

Now the Jackrabbits (27-7) enter the Big Dance as one of the unknown teams that people should know more about. They’ve beaten Washington and Buffalo and finished right on the heels of regular-season Summit League champ Oral Roberts, which only ran off a 13-game win streak this season.

But there’s a reason they’re an unknown. South Dakota State’s only been a D-I team for five seasons and has played on national TV twice, including Tuesday night. Jackrabitts might not sound scary, but they are.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.