By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY ---- They saved the best for last.
That old saying holds true for the South Dakota School of Mines men’s basketball team as they wrap up the regular season Thursday night taking on its biggest rivals in the Black Hills State Yellow Jackets.
The Hardrockers enter the game riding a lot of momentum after two big wins in North Dakota this past weekend where they defeated Minot State and Dickinson State. The win over the Beavers was the first victory the ‘Rockers have had at Minot since a playoff game in 2001.
“(The players) were excited after the game, as was the coaching staff, because we knew how tough it was to play them up there,” said Hardrocker head coach Jason Henry. ���We played pretty well.”
The next night against the Blue Hawks, SD Mines was a little sluggish in the early goings, falling behind by double figures right away in the first half.
“We just came in off a big win (over Minot), we had wrapped up home-court advantage in the first round and our guys didn’t come out ready to go,” Henry said referring to the Dakota Athletic Conference standings in which SDM could do no worse then fourth (top four teams get first round games at home).
But the defense tightened up and the ‘Rockers overtook Dickinson in the second half and cruised on for the win.
“The last few games our defense has really taken us to a different level,” Henry added.
South Dakota Mines has been able to rally back in a few games over this final stretch and overtake their opponents. Against Valley City, the Hardrockers fell behind by 10 or more points twice and battled back for the win.
“A lot of it just has to do with we are playing a lot harder than the first half of the year,” Henry said.
Upping the intensity on the court has certainly paid off as SDM is back over .500 with a 14-13 overall record as well as a conference mark that puts them at 9-4 in the DAC and second in the standings. It has also netted them a four-game win streak.
“Now we have to go on another four-game win streak,” Henry said.
First on the docket are the Yellow Jackets. In the last meeting, Dec. 6, 2006 in Spearfish, South Dakota Mines was able to utilize senior forward Matt Lyndoe --- who is tall, but also mobile --- and exploit mismatches. Lyndoe led a second-half run that netted the Hardrockers the victory, 71-60.
“We kind of took advantage of some things with Matt,” Henry said. “He’s a tough matchup for anybody. That’s kind of the theme for the whole year --finding the different matchups that we can take advantage of.”
When comparing the Hardrockers and Yellow Jackets, BHSU appears to be more guard orientated with a quicker up-tempo team. The Jackets have 11 guards on the roster, two forwards and two centers. The forwards and centers are all 6-foot-6-inches or taller and all very athletic. Randy Herman, AJ Fodness and Brandon Sweet are all doing well in the paint for the Yellow Jackets, which should open things up for the many guards circling the perimeter. “Overall, they definitely have the guards. With Sweet playing a little more inside, that gives them another inside presence,” Henry said. “Look for them to mix it up a little bit as far as pushing the ball at us, transition, double-teaming us and whatever happens in the post.”
It’s a pair of perimeter players that spark the BHSU offense. Junior forward Sam Kim leads the team in scoring, averaging 13 points a game and sophomore guard Forrest Dorr dishes in 11 points a game.
The Hardrockers have gotten production out of their offense from a number of sources. With five seniors on the roster, it’s anyone’s guess who will do the most damage on a nightly basis. SDM has two players (Lyndoe and Casey Schmitz) that have scored over 1,000 points for their careers as a Hardrocker and the Hardrockers have received DAC Player of the Week honors four times this season as Schmitz received it twice, Lyndoe once and most recently Brandon Lord, another senior that is playing really strong as of late, received the award this week.
The ‘Rockers are currently led in scoring by Schmitz, who’s averaging 13 points a game, while three other seniors are all averaging 10 points each time out (Lyndoe, Lord and Brandon Fredrickson).
Black Hills State has seventh place wrapped up in the league with a 9-18 overall record and 4-9 in the conference, but because Thursday’s contest is a rivalry game --- records can pretty much be thrown out the window.
“It’s a big deal because it’s a totally different atmosphere than we see for most of the year. It will probably be a packed house,” Henry said. “It also means (if we win) that we could be at home for two rounds of the playoffs.”
If the Hardrockers do come out on top, they will then get to host at least two games in the postseason, locking up the No. 2 seed. That would also mean that Mines’ first-round opponent would be the No 7 team --- the Black Hills State Yellow Jackets.
So maybe they didn’t save the best for last.
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