By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- In Dakota Athletic Conference basketball, there is an unspoken cliché that teams try to follow in order to be successful in the league – “win at home and split on the road.”
“That’s essentially how it is in this league,” said South Dakota School of Mines men’s basketball coach Jason Henry. “You play back-to-back nights, it’s a 10-hour drive (the first night) and then another five-hour drive between games on the next day.”
So far, the Hardrockers have followed that philosophy to a ‘T’. They have a 6-0 mark when playing at home this season (2-0 in DAC play). They also split a pair of road games last week, falling to Mayville State, 81-68, followed by an impressive victory over Dakota State, 89-89.
The ‘Rockers also won a road game back in early December, defeating the Black Hills State Yellow Jackets. SDM now has a 4-1 conference mark (9-10 overall) and have a share of the top spot in the DAC standings.
“We were pretty excited to get the split on our road trip,” Henry said about play this past weekend. “Now we have to try to do it again this weekend.”
The Hardrockers head back out onto the road this weekend, facing Jamestown College Friday night, followed by a matchup with the other first-place team in the DAC --- the Valley City Vikings.
Friday’s game should fit well into the Hardrockers scheme of things. Jamestown hasn’t lived up to their preseason billing. The Jimmies are 11-8 overall but just 2-3 in conference play. But despite slipping a little since DAC play started, Henry feels that Jamestown is a solid team with some quality athletes.
“They are just flat out good. They were picked to win the conference this year and they have probably the best post in the league (Kyle Iverson),” the Hardrocker head coach said. “They cause a lot of matchup problems for a lot of teams. That’s one thing we are fortunate with is that we have a lot of posts and we match up with them pretty well.”
Iverson leads the Jimmies in scoring with 312 total points, averaging 17.33 a game. He is third in the conference for scoring, second in total rebounds (129) and second in the DAC for total blocks at 16. Henry added that Iverson is a key to getting JC’s offense rolling.
“They use him every possession,” Henry said. “Whether it is him scoring or creating something for somebody else.”
To compliment the 6-foot-8-inch junior, the Jimmies use shooting guard Lawrence Brooks. The 6-3 senior was absent from the team last year (red-shirt) and has stepped back into a big role for Jamestown, averaging 15.53 points each time out, amassing 295 total markers this season.
“He’s a threat they didn’t have last year and it could cause some matchup problems for us,” Henry said.
Jamestown does have a few other players that are a concern from the outside, but overall Henry feels his senior laden team can go toe-to-toe with the Jimmies who are an inside out team.
Jamestown is also pretty stingy on defense. They are second in scoring defense in the DAC, allowing 67.7 points a game. Henry said that the Jimmies will try to put the clamps on Friday. In fact, this weekend is very important for the Jimmies as they are close to being in “critical win” mode.
“Jamestown is almost in a must-win situation,” Henry said. ��They are 2-3 (in the DAC) and have two home games (this weekend),” Henry said. “If they lose, it’s a steep climb back up for them.”
Saturday’s matchup will be even more explosive as the Hardrockers matchup with the other 4-1 conference squad --- the Valley City Vikings.
‘They are just playing so well. They are really clobbering people right now and not giving up a lot of points,” Henry said.
The coach added that three of the last five games, the Vikings only gave up between 43 and 48 points.
“That’s just incredible when you play a 40-minute game and hold a team under 50 points,” Henry added.
Valley City is 9-9 on the season and obviously has the No. 1 defense in the conference, allowing just 67.2 points a game and second in steals, tallying 146 for the season.
“They are patient and take what is given to them,” Henry said of the Vikings. “They have a couple guys out there that will get up in you and not let you cut real hard. They have a good post player and some guys on the outside that have been there for a while”
Valley City is paced by senior guard Justin Curry, who is averaging 12.17 points a game. Fellow senior Jonathan Lindel (forward) is scoring 10 points a game along with junior guard Brady Ernst.
This weekend will prove to be a huge gauge for the Hardrockers. Since DAC play began, they have followed the DAC cliché perfectly and have paid off with the top spot in the conference.
“We have been on top of the league since Day 1. Basically it’s been seven weeks since we have been in first place,” Henry said.
But now that success comes with a price.
“We start to get a target on our backs now. Teams will be ready to go against us,” Henry added.
The pair of upcoming games definitely will be taking on the feel of a “big-game atmosphere”, but with just nine games left on the schedule they certainly ought to.
“If we go out there (this weekend) and we split, we will be pretty excited,” Henry said. “If we lose two games out there it will put us in fifth or sixth place possibly (in the conference standings). All the games at this time of year are a big deal.”
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