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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 11 2013

Fans to have impact on Summit League title game

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The name on the outside says Sioux Falls Arena, but every year at about this time, it turns into something else: Frost South.

South Dakota State fans are doing to the Summit League men’s basketball tournaments what North Dakota State football fans did to Frisco, Texas, this year: gobble up most of the tickets before other fans start thinking about it.

It’s made for a Jackrabbit home-court advantage, much like its home of Frost Arena in Brookings, S.D., located about 60 miles away.

After its 72-56 semifinal win over Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne, SDSU coaches and players said the fan advantage is nice, but they don’t count on it.

“You can’t come into a game relying on it,” said head coach Scott Nagy.

But IPFW head coach Tony Jasik had another thought. He got right to the point.

“I thought tonight the crowd had an impact in every aspect of the game,” he said.

That’s what North Dakota State will have to deal with tonight when they face the Jacks for the right to go to the NCAA tournament. The Bison did their part with a 55-43 win over Western Illinois in the second semifinal game of the night.

Sioux Falls Arena is a basketball-loud environment what the Fargodome is to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

NDSU head coach Saul Phillips pointed to the Division I decision a decade ago when administrators from both schools made the jump.

“Fast forward to now,” Phillips said, “and our football teams are playing in the playoffs and the basketball teams are playing for a trip to go to the NCAA. I think we had some pretty good visionaries and now we just want to take advantage of it.”

The Bison-WIU game was a night-and-day difference from the SDSU and IPFW game. There were 6,676 fans in the semifinal games, but a good chunk left after the SDSU victory.

“It definitely helps out and our fans were super loud tonight,” said SDSU guard Nate Wolters. “But we don’t rely on them. We rely on each other to get through those tough times.”

The game is sold out for tonight, which promises to be a fan-friendly atmosphere for the ESPN cameras. Asked how his team will deal with the crowd, NDSU forward Taylor Braun said it’s part of college basketball.

“It’s March, it’s a chance to go to the NCAA tournament,” he said. “Both teams will be fighting, we just have to stay composed and play our basketball and we’ll be all right.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia