For the first two quarters, Black Hills State University senior Rachel Erickson was in a zone. So were the Yellow Jackets.
Not so much in the third quarter.
But Erickson and Company built up enough cushion and held off Texas A&M-International 73-55 Saturday night at the Young Center.
Erickson hit 7-of-8 3-pointers and scored 21 points as the BHSU women seemingly were in total control, leading 47-23 at the break.
But the Dust Devils chipped away at the Jacket lead, thanks mainly to BHSU's inability to score. Black Hills State went scoreless in the first five minutes of the third quarter and International cut the lead to 13 — 49-36.
The Jackets were still up by 13 heading into the fourth quarter.
Despite the third-quarter struggles, it was the entire body of work for the Jackets that was impressive, and BHSU regained command with a 9-3 run to open the fourth and it never looked back.
The Jackets led by as much as 24 the rest of the way.
BHSU coach Mark Nore said that you want to feel good about the whole game, and he felt good about three of the four quarters played.
“The one quarter, we have to identify how to get out of that when that happens,” he said. “I felt this weekend we played seven really good quarters.”
Black Hills State opened the season Friday night with a 66-41 win over Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Although Erickson didn’t hit a 3-pointer the rest of the game — she attempted just one trey in the second half — she was able to set her career high in points with 26 after being fouled on a 3.
She hit all three free throws with 48 seconds remaining in the game.
“The first half was really good. I think we got people going; obviously me included. It’s nice to have my teammates looking for me,” Erickson said. “That third quarter was tough. I think they have a gritty team too and they put it on us in the third quarter. All-in-all our team came together and finished it strong.”
When you are nearly perfect from the outside, shooters are confident and want the basketball. Erickson had a little of that in her Saturday night.
“I give my teammates credit for giving me looks, getting me open, setting good screens,” she said. “It’s just a process and my teammates were up for me.”
Nore said this weekend showed who they are as a team and what makes them go. That, he added, is their energy.
“When we lose that we lose the pace offensively. We lose our toughness, our edge defensively. We have to get out of that,” he said. “But I thought we really played selfless basketball all weekend; we shared the ball well."
Nore said that Hannah Cass should gain some confidence with the way she played, as the redshirt freshman from Newcastle, Wyo., finished with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.
“She was really good at the high post, and she kind of saved our butts,” he said.
Keely Bertram also had an outstanding game with 10 points and 13 rebounds — the 13 rebounds were a career high.
“Keely is just so dang tough,” Nore said. “She hit some big shots late from the top of the key.”
The Yellow Jackets hit 28-of-58 from the field and out-rebounded the Dust Devils 40-29.
Tantashea Giger led International, 0-2, with 22 points, including 15 from the free-throw line, while Passionate Amukamara and Jaden Gonzales each scored 10.
Black Hills State gets right back after it, taking on Minnesota State Mankato Tuesday in Mankato.
“It’s a great start to our season,” Erickson said. “I’m really excited for the rest.”
McInnis leads Yellow Jacket men to big win
The effort was better and their feet are now wet, as the Black Hills State University men's basketball team opened the season with two wins — yes two wins — over the same opponent, Yellowstone Christian.
The Yellow Jackets completed the sweep Saturday afternoon with a 99-64 victory at the Young Center. Friday, BHSU stopped the Centurions 86-52.
Playing the same team two nights in a row appeared to be beneficial for the Black Hills State, which never trailed and basically was never threatened.
BHSU coach Jeff Trumbauer said they made some progress on Saturday, after a less than satisfying effort the night before.
"Our mindsets were not right (Friday). It was about developing some consistency and our effort, execution. It wasn't there to the degree that it needs to be," he said. "It doesn't matter who we are playing or what night we're playing them, we should look the same. I thought it was much better today (Saturday), although we had some ebb and flow throughout the game, especially in the second half when we were fouling."
Junior college transfer guard Makaleb McInnis was also much more pleased with the team's effort the second time around against the Centurions.
"Last night I thought we played well, but we came out a little flat with energy on defense," McInnis said. "Today, we tried to focus in and get things going on defense early. I thought we played better tonight, for sure."
Offensively, it was also an improvement, as the Jackets shot nearly 60 percent from the field and had all 13 players get into the scoring column.
"When I look at our roster, are we a little more potent offensively that we have been? I don't think there is any doubt about that," Trumbauer said. "We played defense at a very high level last year, so if our defense drops and our offense rises, we're in the same place that we were last year. We want the defense to stay where it was and bring the offense up. Then we have a chance to do some things."
Led by Fraser Malcolm's 12 points, 10 Yellow Jackets got in the scoring column in the opening 20 minutes, leading 49-25 at the break. BHSU, which shot 61 percent from the field, closed the first half on a 27-11 run.
"It's always good to get on a team early, play well and keep up the defense," McInnis said. "That way the whole team is into it and everybody is enjoying it. That makes the whole game way fun."
It was more of the same in the second half, as McInnis had the hot hand, scoring 15 of his game-high 22 points.
"Makaleb had a nice weekend; he's a good kid, a tough kid and a smart player," Trumbauer said. "He is pretty efficient. Everything he has done this fall is about 50 percent from 3 and 50 percent from the field, and he plays good defense."
Malcolm finished with 19 points and Patrick Mendes added 13. The Jackets hit 40-of-67 from the field (11-of-26 3 pointers). McInnis said he and Malcolm provide a nice one-two scoring punch for the Jackets.
"Anytime one person is going and lifting everybody, the team starts feeding off each other and their energy," McInnis said.
The Yellow Jackets stay at home next Saturday when they host Johnson & Wales.