SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – One of the most successful seasons in IPFW’s NCAA Division I basketball history will not pay off with a trip to the NCAA tournament.
No. 5 seeded North Dakota State rallied from a 19-point first-half deficit to shock the No. 1 Mastodons 69-68 Monday night in the Summit League tournament semifinals at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
The Bison, winners of the last two Summit League tournament titles, advance to the finals against the winner of South Dakota State-Denver, while the Mastodons will head to the NIT, where they have an automatic bid by virtue of sharing the Summit League regular-season title.
Carlin Dupree, a guard who quit the team earlier this season scored 22 points Monday, dropping in a finger roll from underneath the basket with 40 seconds left to bring North Dakota State to within a point. After IPFW’s Max Landis missed a 23-footer with 25 seconds to go, Dupree charged into the lane and put one in off glass with 4 seconds left to give the Bison their only lead of the game.
Landis was barely able to get off a desperation heave at the buzzer, and North Dakota State celebrated.
Though the Bison (20-12) had fought back to make it a game, it seemed as if the Mastodons were in control and would ultimately fend off the defending champs.
"At no point did I ever feel like we were going to lose or that it was slipping away," IPFW’s Joe Reed said. "They hit some big shots, and you have to give them credit for that."
The Bison didn’t even have their leading scorer, Paul Miller. The sophomore guard was suspended before the game for violating team rules.
"I have to give credit to North Dakota State – they played a phenomenal second half," said IPFW’s Jon Coffman, the Summit League Coach of the Year. "They beat a team that on most nights is the best team in this league."
Perhaps smelling blood because of Miller’s absence, the Mastodons quickly came out of the gate, taking a 20-4 lead. Back-to-back 3s cut the lead to 20-10, but IPFW pushed the lead back to 31-13.
The Bison narrowed the gap to 42-35 midway through the second half, but 3s by Landis and John Konchar pushed the Mastodons’ advantage back to 13. North Dakota State whittled the lead to 5 with just over three minutes to go at 64-59.
"We didn’t execute some details," Coffman said. "We did a really good job of sitting in gaps in the first half. We turned them over and played them late into the shot clock. In the second half, we didn’t do that. Couple that with them making some big plays."
Landis had 19 points for IPFW (24-9), but was just 6 of 18 from the floor and 5 of 14 on 3s. Konchar had 17 points and seven steals, and Michael Calder had 16 points.
The Mastodons shot just 33 percent in the second half and were just 6 of 13 at the line.
Khy Kabellis had 19 points for North Dakota State, and the Bison shot 63 percent in the second half.
"We kept believing, kept fighting and kept controlling what we could control in the second half," said Bison coach Dave Richman, whose team will play in its fourth straight tournament final tonight. "That’s a tremendous basketball team we just beat."
The Mastodons are still a win away from matching the 2013-14 team for the most wins in a Division I season (25-11).
"It’s definitely something we can look forward to," Reed said of the NIT. "It’s not exactly something we wanted to be looking at, but you have to credit this program for putting ourselves in that position."