Denver, South Dakota State Advance to Men's Semifinals

Denver's Cam Griffin - Photo by Inertia Sports Media
Denver's Cam Griffin - Photo by Inertia Sports Media

Men's Basketball Championship Page

The Basics
Score: No. 4 Denver 71, No. 5 South Dakota 55
Records: Denver (16-14), South Dakota (12-18)
Location: Sioux Falls Arena - Sioux Falls, S.D.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - No. 4 Denver advanced to the semifinals of The Summit League Men's Basketball Tournament with a 71-55 victory over South Dakota Sunday night.

Brett Olson led the Pioneers with 20 points while Bryant Rucker added 14 and Jalen Love 10. Denver led 38-32 at the half.

For the Coyotes, who end the season 12-18, Brandon Bos scored 13 and Trevor Gruis 12.

Turning Point

Denver held South Dakota to just five points during a 10:21 stretch of the second half, extending its lead to 15 points during that span and putting the game out of reach.

Inside The Box Score

  • Brett Olson scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half and played all 40 minutes.

News & Notes

  • Denver's win marked the fourth time in the last five tries that a league newcomer has won its inaugural Summit League Tournament game, joining Fort Wayne in 2008 and North Dakota State and South Dakota State in 2009. Current league members are 6-1 in their Summit tournament debuts.
  • The Pioneers' victory marked just the second time in seven years that the No. 4 seed has defeated the No. 5 seed in a quarterfinal matchup.
  • Denver's Brett Olson averaged 24.0 points per game (22, 30, 20) this season against South Dakota, where his father played basketball.
  • South Dakota is 0-2 all-time in Summit League Tournament games.

Up Next
Denver advances to the semifinals and will face top-seeded North Dakota State. The semifinal game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT tip-off on Monday and will be televised regionally on Midco Sports Network and nationally on Fox College Sports.


Denver head coach Joe Scott

"This time of year it was a hard-fought game in the first half. Little back-fourth, we did make a five point lead. I thought our guys did a very good job in those situations of maintaining the lead, I thought that was key. We got off at half time up six and then the key at half time was our defense-maintaining our defense. The second halves this year have been a bit of an Achilles heel for us, we just wanted to maintain where we was at on defense. Playing our strengths- we thought that was the key to the game. Offensively, we stalled a little bit, but our defense gave our time for offense to catch up in the second half. We made some big shots, big plays … and you need that from your best players."

on his first Summit League tournament as a coach
"No matter what league you're in, each one is the same in that everything is at stake. You sort of have to learn how to be good in situations. The whole year has been newer for us. League we have been in were sort of similar. This one's a little different, big change. We've had a year of adapting and adjusting to that. With that being said, when we come here to this tournament- you saw on USA Today, the story was great publicity for the league. This is something special in terms of for the tournament. The caliber of competition is really good. To be out there and playing that way, I know it means the world to all off the student athletes. You have to give the Summit League credit for that, Sioux Falls, this area, they love basketball - they love basketball- it's a great environment for the tournament. It's great to be in March playing in this kind of environment. That's why they play at this game to compete at this high of a level so it's nice to see that recognition. For us, it's nice to be able to come out and play even harder, maybe even be able to play a team with South Dakota in their name. There's a little bit of advantage here for the South Dakota school. This time of the year, it's called competing at the highest level and I think the players and competitors really know that. There really isn't a home court. Tonight, we had to figure out how to get behind the ball."

on what it takes to stay one step ahead
"I think it's what we are going to have to do again tomorrow. I thought for us defense was very good tonight. We had a little bit of the chip on your shoulder that you need defensively going after the basketball. Our guys really zeroed in that way. First half, our offense helped us a great deal and second half, our defense helped us a great deal. You need both of those things. I thought our defense did a really good job as our offense may have, not clicking at as high of a level, our defense gave it enough help so that we came through- made some big plays and threw some nice passes. Those are the things that you need to do to put a game away. I've got to give our defense credit for that. Our players stayed calm and knew what to do to put the game away."

on any advantage or disadvantage playing NDSU so soon after just playing them
"When you're in an eight team league, which is rare in college basketball, I think everybody is going to be playing somebody that they just saw in recent weeks. When you're in those bigger leagues you may run in to someone you haven't seen in a while. I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage, but I know that it sort of goes both ways. We went to the place that we could go at that time. They, South Dakota, played really well. When we were in their buildings, they played really well. We competed really at a high level. Those two teams played really well. They're good, they're a veteran team and the teams know each other. This time of year, any adjustment, tweak you can make can go a long way. I know we have done some of those things and we are hopeful that it shows up tomorrow and helps us form a fashion. What we have to be ready for is just March play in a league tournament game where it's just going to be so hard, so physical, so competitive. That's just what you have to do. We will work our tails off to get the result we need."

on their strategy coming in to today and was it to attack them early
"Every team has strengths, every team has weaknesses. We know our weakness, so does every other team in the league. We can adjust our weaknesses, but at the same time we have really good strengths in terms of our perimeter play and our six-foot-four five play, puts a little bit of pressure on them defensively. We have to guard them and they have to figure out how to guard us. I think you have to sort of embrace that. This is who we are and this is how we are going to play. We have to do the same thing tomorrow. We've made some adjustments heading into this tournament and I think that showed up in our favor tonight."

Denver guard Brett Olson

on what specifically made the difference in the team's defense in the second half
"We let guys get off threes [in the first half], so that was kind of our focus going in to the second half. We realized right away in the second half that Bos didn't get many in the second and he had three in the first half. I think we were all just really tough inside, kind of fought them down a little early. We are a smaller team so we just kind of used our quickness to help us down low. We were just really aggressive on defense."

on what is it like to play here in his native state of S.D.
"It's pretty cool. My dad played basketball at USD so it's always fun to play his alma mater, and to come out and get a win. My mom and dad were both here tonight and some friends here, so it's fun. I like kind of beating his alma mater and it's just kind of fun because we have that special bond between us playing against each other's schools. I just try to play my game every night- I don't really care who we're playing or where I'm at. I just try to play well and I think we did that tonight."

on how tonight's game will translate into the upcoming game against NDSU
"We're going to come out with the same mindset- We all just have to battle down low and play tough, use our quickness to our advantage because we are not going to match up size-wise. We are going to have a game plan going and we are going to try to execute it as well as we can."

South Dakota interim head coach Joey James

"I thought our guys came out and battled today. Denver's a good basketball team. With what they run it makes it really tough to try to get too far away from those guys. I thought the first half we did a pretty good job, but gave up 62 percent on the defensive end. And then the second half, we were trying to mix things up going zone and man, three different things that we were trying to do on the defensive side. Again they did a real nice job of making shots.

"I'm proud of these guys. They play hard and I appreciate their efforts but unfortunately we didn't get it done."

on what team could have done better offensively
"We had the looks down low, but then as soon as that thing gets in there they really lead to the ball. Early, Bos hit a couple threes, Trey (Norris) hits a three, that's how we get that early lead. But you can't just live or die off that. I would have just loved to have pounded it inside more and you've got to make shots on the perimeter, too."

 on chance to cut the lead, but committing a couple key turnovers
"I thought we were over-handling the ball. With a team like Denver you have to move the ball side to side, into the post, out on the perimeter and then start attacking those gaps It just became one of those deals where we would try to execute a certain play, but if that play got busted up, if we couldn't feed the ball inside to [Tyler] Flack or Trevor [Gruis] it just became too much dribbling."

on limiting all-league performer Chris Udofia to two shots
"If you would have told me we would hold Udofia to one point and two rebounds, I would say we've got a good chance to win this game. But we've got to hit shots, too, and make plays on the offensive end. Brett Olson hurt us tonight and some of their other key guys didn't miss shots, but Brett Olson hit a couple of big shots down the stretch of that game that kind of stretched things to double figures there."

on the year
"What a blessing. I had the opportunity to lead a program that I went to school at. I sat in the locker room and there were a lot of guys in there that got emotional because I bleed the same thing they do with the red and white. It means a lot to me. It was a fun year. Obviously it can be stressful on both you and your family, but nothing I can't handle. I'm just disappointed the way it ended today."

on Trevor Gruis
"He's a great person. What a neat deal it was for him to come here during the transition. He only had two years as far as postseason play and the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. For someone to do that speaks volumes about him."

on his interim status
"I have no idea, to be honest with you. I hope they see that we made some improvements. But that's not for me to answer, unfortunately. I'd love to be back.  This is a great place, a lot of great people, a lot of people who are moving us forward. We have a great president and a hell of an AD who's got a great vision. I hope I'm able to stay around."

South Dakota center Trevor Gruis

on Denver
"Like coach said, they're a tough team to guard with what they do. Hats off to them they made some shots. I thought it was a lack of communication on our part or whatever. Like Coach James said we tried, and they made some shots down the stretch and we weren't getting anything going too well on our offense so the end result is what it is."

on his career coming to an end
"Obviously you'd like to extend your season as a senior. It's tough, it's emotional, but we left it all out on the floor. I wouldn't have rather gone out with any other group of guys than these guys."

South Dakota guard Brandon Bos

on the team's offensive struggles in the second half
"They're a great defensive team. Their help defense is very good. They sit five in there and can close on the shooters well. They were just really keying in on us. We tried to go inside and they doubled down. Their back side would take away the weak side shots. They edge their ball screens really hard. They're just very solid defensively." 

The Basics
Score: No. 3 South Dakota State 71, No. 6 Western Illinois 50
Records: South Dakota State (19-11), Western Illinois (10-20)
Location: Sioux Falls Arena - Sioux Falls, S.D.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Two-time defending champion South Dakota State advanced to the semifinals of The Summit League Men's Basketball Tournament with a 71-50 victory over Western Illinois Sunday.

After trailing 11-5 early, the Jackrabbits rallied to lead 26-23 at halftime, then outscored WIU 45-27 in the second half.

Brayden Carlson led four Jackrabbit players in double figures with 13 points. Jordan Dykstra added 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Chad White and Marcus Heemstra scored 10 each.

Garret Covington led WIU with 14 points, Jabari Sandifer scored 13 and Michael Ochebeobia added 10.

Turning Point

In the first 59 seconds after halftime, South Dakota State scored five consecutive points and later used a 10-0 run to extend its lead to 20 by the 10:24 mark. 

Inside The Box Score

  • Four South Dakota State players scored in double-figures: Brayden Carlson (13), Jordan Dykstra (12), Marcus Heemstra (10) and Chad White (10).

News & Notes

  • South Dakota State extended its tournament win streak to seven games, moving them into sole possession of third place on the all-time list. SDSU's all-time tournament winning percentage of .750 (9-3) is best in tournament history.
  • Tonight's attendance of 6,647 is a new record for a men's second quarterfinal session. The total ranks as the third-highest for any men's session during the Sioux Falls era. It is the second-highest men's quarterfinal figure of the Sioux Falls era.
  • Monday's games will mark the first time since 1999 that all top four seeds reached the semifinal round. It is the seventh time in history (30 tournaments) that the top four seeds will meet in the semis.

Up Next
South Dakota State advances to the semifinals and will face No. 2 Fort Wayne. The semifinal game is scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. CT tip-off on Monday and will be televised regionally on Midco Sports Network and nationally on Fox College Sports.


South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy

"We had a great week of practice but I cannot believe how tight we were in the first half. I don't like to watch it, there's no reason for us to be tight. We should be loose. I think Western does that too a little bit, they're very good defensively, they're physical. 2-for-10 from three, we turn the ball over when we don't normally do it, just all kinds of uncharacteristic things for us. Very frustrating. We loosened up the second half, mostly because we guarded. We had some nice plays, some steals going. We shot the ball clearly way better in the second half 50 percent from three in the second half, which we need from Chad [White]. Our defense was good. Our defense was where it needed to be. We're not nearly as good offensively as we should be. The players and I are frustrated a little bit but hopefully we can get to it."

on his confidence whether Marcus Heemstra would come out strong
"He was the first guy off the bench. I felt particular Cody [Larson] was really tight early, so we just wanted to give him a breather and talk to him. Marcus is tremendous. We've talked about this all year, what a great guy he is. Does whatever we ask him to, knows everything, smartest player I've ever coached, gives us energy- gives us whatever we need. That guy is just a giver."

on tomorrow's matchup
"They're a tough matchup. I haven't looked at their stuff in a long time, we haven't played them in a long time. Back when we did play them, we had guys that would play eight points or better. From a stat standpoint, I think that's a shame for them because they end up with fewer guys getting all league honors because they're so spread out and very balances, but they're bringing a six-man year off the bench. They're tough kids, well coached."

South Dakota State forward Cody Larson

on what he can add going into tomorrow's physical game against Fort Wayne
"We've played physical games all year- especially at the No. 5 position all year. This league has got some big, strong guys so it's nothing new for us. You just have to attack their offensive end and make sure we get every rebound, every second chance points and play with energy."

on how important was it convert as many turnovers into points
"That was huge and I think that started with our energy. We played more relaxed in the second half and naturally our energy level increased. Forcing turnovers, getting the break, and got some layups so that was a huge pick-me-up, so I think I got some confidence going."

on what was the biggest thing he had to do to take WIU out of the game with an early lead
"Our defense was good, it was just playing relaxed on offense. Once we get some steals, some hustle plays, some energy plays- we had a great lift off the bench form Marcus- those are the things that get our team going and translates over to offense. That's what made them on offense that we found in the second half."

Western Illinois head coach Jim Molinari

"Give South Dakota State a lot of credit. They're very physical and do a great job of getting the ball inside.  I want to thank Michael and Adam for a great effort all year long."

on the atmosphere and the second half
"That is men and boys. That's four seniors against three freshman and two newcomers.  So that was the second half story.  Men and boys on a home court. You have to give them credit. They only guard three of our players…Michael Ochereobia, Adam Link, and Mike Miklusak. They sagged in and dared us to shoot and then we couldn't make any shots. There were some good pieces. Turnovers, missed shots, and they got to the free throw line; I think those are what made the difference. I think those guys got some valuable experience."

on the offseason
"We need to keep recruiting. This is a great league and it has only gotten better. Some teams lose some seniors but we need to build around those freshmen and we have to get healthy. We have to get strong. College basketball is a pretty simple deal. It's a game of matchups. We just have to keep recruiting and get the guys better. But there are some pieces here to work with.  I thought it would be a little better this year if some things had happened, but it didn't happen. We got some valuable experience."

Western Illinois forward Adam Link

on the second half
"I think instead of coming together to fight adversity as a unit, we fought it as individuals. We are much stronger as five than we are as one.  Also, turnovers. Turnovers in the second half were huge."

Western Illinois center Michael Ochereobia

on the second half
"We didn't take care of the ball. We didn't execute some plays the way we needed to. We just need to stay disciplined and take care of the ball more."