JAMESTOWN, N.D. - Dakota State trailed 23-19 at halftime Saturday evening versus nationally-ranked Valley City State (N.D.) in the semifinals of the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) Conference Postseason Tournament at the Civic Center. The Trojans used strong finish to claim a 58-53 thrilling victory, earning the Trojans an appearance in the A.I.I. conference championship game and an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament for the second straight year.
Dakota State, A.I.I.'s No. 3 seed, broke the school record for most victories in a single season with 21 wins (currently 21-9 overall record). DSU will be making to the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Tournament for the second straight year for the first time in school history.
No. 2 seed Valley City State, No. 23 in the latest NAIA Division II Men's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 national poll, dropped their overall record to 21-8.
The Trojans were held to 1-for-10 field goal shooting in the first 11:11 of the game as VCSU earned a 10-2 lead.
DSU went on a 15-8 scoring run to trim Vikings' lead to 18-17 with 4:32 left before halftime.
Valley City State maintained a four-point halftime lead (23-19).
The Trojans shot 27.6 percent from the field in the first-half (8-for-29) and 1-for-8 from the 3-point arc. The Vikings were 8-for-22 from the field (36.4 percent), including 4-for-11 from the 3-point line.
Dakota State started the second-half with a 8-2 scoring run to earn their first lead of the game at 27-26 with 17:28 remaining.
VCSU answered by using a 14-7 scoring run to earn a 40-34 lead with 11:06 left.
The Trojans tied the game at 41-41 with a 7-1 run with less than nine minutes remaining.
At 47-47, Dakota State scored five straight points to earn a 52-47 lead with 3:52 left.
VCSU could get no closer than three points on three occasions (52-49 with 3:07 left, 54-51 with 2:21 remaining and 56-53 with 1:30 left).
Luke Lamb nailed down two free-throws with 27 seconds left to seal the game. VCSU missed three straight 3-point attempts in the final eight seconds of the game.
DSU outscored the Vikings 39-30 in the final twenty minutes of the game.
Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in the second-half. The Trojans were 14-for-28 from the field, including 6-for-10 from the 3-point arc (60 percent). VCSU was 12-for-24 from the field and 2-for-8 from the 3-point line.
A total of two ties and 11 lead changes occurred in the second-half.
Luke Lamb and John Lamb each had 13 points for Dakota State. Luke Lamb was 4-for-6 from the field and made all four free-throws. Cameron Krump shot 6-for-7 from the field to earn 12 points off the bench. Yusuf Vinson added eight points.
Vinson grabbed eight rebounds for the Trojans. Krump added six rebounds.
Tyrone Gordon, Jr. produced six assists and recorded two steals for DSU. John Lamb had two steals.
Aaron Duske and AJ McDonald each had 10 points for Valley City State. John Raquel had nine points. Sekani Milligen added eight points.
Raquel earned eight rebounds and dished out four assists for the Vikings. He had four steals. Gus Kueber had seven rebounds.
VCSU shot 43.5 percent overall from the field (20-for-46) compared to the Trojans' 38.6 percent (22-for-57). DSU drained nine 3-pointers in 18 attempts (38.9 percent), while the Vikings made six 3-pointers in 19 attempts (31.6 percent).
The Trojans made seven free-throws in eight attempts (87.5 percent). VCSU struggled from the free-throw line, converting seven free-throws in 18 attempts (43.8 percent).
VCSU outrebounded DSU 33-32. The Trojans outscored the Vikings 19-1 in second-chance points.
DSU and Valley City State met for the third time this season Saturday. The Vikings won both regular-season meetings.
It was the second straight year that both Dakota State and Valley City State met in the A.I.I. Tournament's semifinals (DSU defeated VCSU 82-73 in Madison last season).
Dakota State awaits the winner between the A.I.I.'s top-seed Rochester (Mich.) and No. 5 seed Jamestown (N.D.) Sunday afternoon. The 2013 A.I.I. Division II Men's Basketball Championship game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the Civic Center in Jamestown, N.D.
Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University Sports Information Director