SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – And so the Dancin' shoes will stay in the closet, because the basketball did its own devil dance.
Off the rim. Around the rim. In and out of the cylinder. Out of and into and out of the cylinder again.
For 10 long minutes, plus 41 seconds, the IPFW Mastodons (24-10) watched the basketball misbehave Tuesday, and when it was over, so were their hopes of reaching the Big Dance for the first time. Instead, it was No. 1 seed North Dakota State (25-6) who got its NCAA tournament ticket punched, outlasting an IPFW team that characteristically refused to go away, 60-57, in the championship game of The Summit League tournament.
Late Tuesday night, IPFW athletic director Kelley Hartley Hutton confirmed the Mastodons had accepted a bid to the College Insider Tournament (CIT).
North Dakota State's victory, meanwhile, gave the Bison their first conference tournament title since 2009, and only their second ever. And it wasn't sealed until IPFW forward Luis Jacobo's desperation bid to tie sailed wide left as the horn sounded.
It was a fitting if not proper end to an evening in which the Mastodons played a dazzling first half and then went dry, making just three field goals across that last 10:41.
"I thought we left a lot of balls on the rim that just didn't fall tonight for us," IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. "I thought Steve (Forbes) had three or four that were makes that just didn't fall. And again, give credit to North Dakota State. They're one of the best defensive teams in our league and unfortunately we weren't able to convert on some of those plays.
"It's unfortunate because I thought our guys competed hard enough to win the game."
That was evident from the Bisons' own struggles. They went 7:23 without a field goal in the second half, got outrebounded 37-29, made just 5-of-16 3s and shot just 41 percent. But Taylor Braun scored eight of the Bison's last nine points down the stretch, and the Mastodons couldn't quite fully answer.
After 13 lead changes, he corkscrewed down the lane to spin in a layup with 1:18 remaining, giving North Dakota State the lead for good, 56-55. Forbes' hook shot in the lane spun out, and then Braun threw in a Houdini runner and cashed the free throw with 12 seconds showing to push the lead to 59-55.
Joe Reed's putback with three seconds showing cut the lead in half, but Kory Brown knocked home two free throws a second later to put it out of reach.
The Mastodons dominated the first half after six early lead changes, shooting 50 percent and making exactly half of their 3-point attempts (5 of 10) while outrebounding the longer Bison 21-12. Jacobo and Michael Kibiloski led the scoring with nine apiece.
North Dakota State, meanwhile, shot just 40 percent (12 of 30) and just 3 of 11 from the arc – a big reason why the Bison never saw the lead in the first half after Jacobo dropped a 3-pointer to turn an 11-10 edge into 14-10 at the 14:40 mark, putting North Dakota State in chase mode thereafter.
I thought that was high level basketball game," said Jasick, whose team was led by Jacobo, Kibiloski and Pierre Bland, all of whom finished with nine points. "I give a lot of credit to really both teams, but I thought North Dakota State continued to compete.
"When you get here, you've got 13 guys on each team that are literally laying it on the line every possession. I think they played their butts off."