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North Dakota, South Dakota Claim League Titles
#1 South Dakota 97, #2 Minnesota State 86
Vermillion, S.D. -- South Dakota captured its second North Central Conference Postseason Tournament championship in the past three years thanks to a 97-86 victory over Minnesota State in the title game played in front of 2,712 fans in the DakotaDome. The victory guaranteed the program a spot in the upcoming NCAA Division II National Tournament which begins next Saturday.
USD will find out later tonight who and where it will play in the first round of the North Central Regional tourney. This is the first time in school history that the Coyotes have captured the regular season and postseason conference championships in the same season, and also extends USD's school record to four straight appearances in the NCAA Division II National Tournament, and is the 12th trip to "The Big Dance" in school history.
South Dakota adds this NCC Postseason Tourney title to the crown in captured in 2005, which interestingly enough also came over MSU. The 23rd victory on the year also moves this year's club into a tie for fourth-place on the school's all-time single-season victory list.
Dylan Grimsley was named the NCC Postseason Tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds while dishing out four assists.
Dustin Little led all scorers with 22 points - just two shy of his career-high - while making 8-of-10 attempts from the field and all five from the free throw line. Little also added five rebounds and a career-high four steals.
Jesse Becker came off the bench to pour in 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including three-of-four from beyond the arc, and dished out six assists in the win. Also coming off the bench to reach double-digits in scoring was Mitch Begeman who tallied 14 points while making five-of-seven shots from the floor, including three-of-five from three-point range.
Steve Smith was the fifth Coyote to hit double-digits in points with 16 points to go along with seven rebounds, which tied Grimsley for the team lead. Smith made six-of-seven attempts from the charity stripe and added a pair of blocked shots.
Minnesota State had four players hit double-digits in scoring, led by Paris Kyles' 21 points. Luke Anderson had 17 points and five rebounds while Tony Thomason went for 16 points. Jake Morrow added 12 points for the Mavericks while Mitch Gosson grabbed a game-high eight rebounds along with scoring seven points.
South Dakota shot a blazing 61.4% from the floor during the course of the game, and made 7-of-13 three-point attempts (53.8%). The Coyotes were also credited with four blocked shots to just one for the Mavericks. USD enjoyed a 33-30 advantage on the boards, including a 23-16 edge on the defensive glass.
The Coyotes got out to a fast start in the game with an 8-2 opening salvo just 3:43 into play. Minnesota State answered right back with a 9-2 run of its own to take its first lead of the game at the 14:42 mark at 11-10. A little over two minutes later, the Mavericks found themselves holding a 15-14 lead until a jumper by Grimsley and a lay-up by Becker on back-to-back possessions put USD up for what ultimately proved to be for good.
MSU closed the gap to just one point on three separate occasions through the remainder of the half. However, it was the host Coyotes that were able to hang onto the lead and took a 43-40 advantage into the break.
The difference in score between the two schools hovered in the one-to-two possession range for most of the early part of the second half, with South Dakota leading 54-50 six minutes into play. At that point, the Coyotes ripped of eight consecutive points with a lay-up by Grimsley sandwiched in-between trifectas by Begeman and Becker, and suddenly USD found itself up a dozen points at 62-50 with 12:51 remaining.
Minnesota State started to chip away at that deficit, and with 11:14 to go closed to within eight points at 67-59. Once again though, South Dakota responded with a 9-2 run to take its largest lead of the game to that point, leading 76-62 with 8:52 left on the clock. From that point, the lead stayed in the double-digit range until only 40 ticks remained and the Mavericks closed to eight points. But it was a case of too-little, too-late for the defending conference tournament champions as MSU returned the crown to the Coyotes after the final buzzer sounded and South Dakota had an 11-point victory under its belt.
#1 North Dakota 72, #3 South Dakota 49
Grand Forks, N.D. -- There was no stopping North Dakota at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. The Fighting Sioux played a nearly flawless game en route to a 72-49 victory over South Dakota in the NCC Postseason Championship. It's their seventh straight NCC tournament championship.
South Dakota, which spent much of the last few day on the road because of the weather, looked a little road weary. The biggest indicator was in the paint, where South Dakota had problems controlling UND. The Sioux outscored the Coyotes 22-10 in the paint and outrebounded them 52-34. UND's post players combined for 39 points.
UND's defense was also on top of its game. The Sioux held South Dakota to a 7-of-32 (21.9 percent) in the second half. South Dakota's 49 points matches the mark for the fewest points against the Sioux this season.
After a close first 12 minutes, the Sioux pulled away at the end of the first half, much like they did the previous night against Minnesota Duluth.
UND held onto a 18-17 point lead at the 8:52, after USD's Ashley Bjorkman drilled a three-pointer. Kierah Kimbrough answered with a lay-up in the paint. Then Carissa Jahner had a steal and Kimbrough hit a jumper after grabbing an offensive rebound. On UND's next possession, Kayla Bagaason scored three of her nine points and the Sioux led by 25-17 with 7:27 remaining. It was all UND from there.
Kimbrough, who was one point shy of a double double with 20 points and nine rebounds, was named the tournament's most valuable player. Ashley Langen ended with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
South Dakota was led by Bjorkman's 15 points. Shannon Daly
contributed 12 points.