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Black Hills State University senior Remi Wientjes drives to the basket during a recent home game. All three area college teams open Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play this weekend.

After a handful of non-conference action for each team, the South Dakota School of Mines, Black Hills State University and Chadron State College basketball teams — men and women — will begin the real season this weekend.

All three Division II schools will begin Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play tonight and Saturday at home.

Mines and Black Hills State will take turns with Colorado Colorado Springs and MSU Denver, while Chadron State will host Colorado Mines tonight. The Eagles play just one game each this weekend.

After a 2-2 non-conference start, the Mines men will look to a better start in conference play against MSU Denver tonight and UCCS on Saturday.

Sophomore Jake Heath — last year's RMAC Freshman of the Year — has picked up where he left off, leading Mines in scoring with 12.3 points per game. Redshirt freshmen Troy Brady and Wilfred Dickson are both right behind him at 12 points per game and sophomore Logan Elers contributes with 11 points a game.

 The Roadrunners come to Goodell Gymnasium with a 1-5 record, but are coming off their first win of the year over the University of North Georgia.

"It's pretty much the same guys that played last year for them," Mines coach Jason Henry said in a release. "They do have a pre-season all-conference selection in Williams. We will be watching him closely all night. He does a lot of good things for them. As he goes, they go."

Saturday the Mountain Lions come to town, entering the weekend with a 3-3 overall mark. UCCS is capable of putting a lot of points on the scoreboard. They have not scored under 80 points this season and have posted 95-plus points three times.

"They are going to be one of the top teams in the conference this year," Henry said. "They have some good players on both the interior and the perimeter. They also like to push the ball so we will need to make sure we are getting back and playing defense on the transition."

The Mines women are off to a strong 4-1 start and have a well-balanced offense.

"They are a lot like us. They return all five starters from last year and they have a very potent offensive team," said Hardrocker women's coach Ryan Larsen. "We are going to need a tremendous individual defensive performance. We're going to have to hunker down and guard the ball and pick up our defensive intensity."

The Mountain Lions enter the weekend with an 0-5 mark after taking some lumps from talented opponents (West Texas A&M, Wayne State (Neb.), Fort Hays State (Kan.), and the Nebraska-Kearney).

"They have lost about 85 percent of their scoring from the previous years," Larsen said in a release. "We've never beaten Colorado Springs. We now have an opportunity to do that."

Sophomore Cooper Courtney currently leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game, while fellow sophomore Anna Haugen is contributing with 10.4 points and nine rebounds each game. Freshman Emma Pearce is adding 10.3 points a game with sophomore Sami Steffeck (9.8) junior Taylor Molstad (8.6 ppg) and senior Payton Humpal (7.8) all getting great point production.

The Black Hills State women are off to one of their best starts in school history, as their 6-0 record matches the best start by the 2006-2007 and 2008-2009 teams.

Senior Rachel Erickson leads the team in scoring at 15.4 points a game, but it is the BHSU bench that has shined this season, averaging 36.5 points per game, making up almost half of the team's points. The bench has 219 points against the 268 points scored by starters. The starters are averaging 44.7 points per game. The team has 487 points combined on the season.

Julia Seamans and Keely Bertram are both averaging 8.8 points a game.

The Yellow Jacket men are off to a much better start this season at 3-1, with two impressive wins against Yellowstone Christian in which they averaged 92 points a game. BHSU also downed Johnson & Wales 71-60, but fell to Northern State on the road, 68-46.

Junior Fraser Malcolm, the team’s leading scorer at 14.0 points last season, is doing it again, leading the way at 15.2 points a game. Newcomers Makaleb McInnis and Dez Stoudamire are averaging 12.7 and 9.3 points a game respectively.

The Chadron State men and women host Colorado School of Mines in a Friday doubleheader.

The Chadron State women's team is 2-3 and the men are 2-4.

The Colorado Mines men return three starters from last year's team that was 30-5 overall and 19-3 in RMAC play. They won both the RMAC and the South Central Regional Tournament championships.

This year's Orediggers are 6-0 after winning twice in overtime. 

The Colorado Mines women are 3-3 so far this season.

The Colorado Christian teams were to visit the Eagles on Saturday night, but because of a scheduling conflict involving Denver-area teams, those games have been moved to Monday night.

Three Eagle men are scoring in double figures, led by Dru Kuxhausen at 12.7 points a game, followed by Jaisen Jackson at 10.8 and Michael Johnson at 10.2.

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For the Chadron State women, Brooke Turek at 12.4 points a game and Kalli Freddersen at 12.2.

RMAC Players of the Week

Women's Offense

Alex Nelson, Colorado Christian

Nelson is the Cougars’ leading scorer this season thus far. Nelson led both games this weekend. In their loss, she had 14 points and three assists, with one offensive rebound and two steals. In their win, she scored an outstanding 31 points, going 13-14 on free throws and making four three-pointers. She added on four assists and two blocked shots.

Women's Defense

Vivian Gray, Fort Lewis

Gray blocked five shots, stole the ball three times, and pulled down 22 rebounds (17 defensive) against Angelo State and Texas A&M Kingsville. All five of her blocks came in a one-point win over Angelo State, with one coming in the last second to seal the victory for the Skyhawks. She added 15 points and six assists over the weekend.

Men's Offense

Dayon Goodman, Westminster

Goodman led the Griffins in scoring this weekend in wins against Dickinson State and Seattle Pacific. Against Dickinson, he scored 24 points, shooting 6-14 field goals, 3-4 three-point field goals, and 7-7 from the free throw line. Against Seattle Pacific, the senior scored a career-high 39 points. He added on 10 assists over the weekend.

Men's Defense

Will Newman, CSU-Pueblo

Newman totaled 25 points and eight rebounds, seven defensive, in a 100-88 road win at UCCS. He knocked down 9 of 11 from the field and a pair of three-pointers, going a perfect 5-5 from the free throw line. He added on a blocked shot and a steal, plus five assists.

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.