The South Dakota School of Mines men's and women's basketball teams returned from the holidays and were able to get back in action Monday when it hosted Nebraska Christian College.
Black Hills State, meanwhile, hasn't played since Dec. 16, and along with Mines, returns to Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play Friday and Saturday at Colorado Mesa and Western State Colorado.
Mines will be at Mesa Friday in Grand Junction, Colorado, while BHSU is at Western State in Gunnison, Colorado. The two schools will switch opponents on Saturday.
"It was a great game to knock the rust off. We kind of got our legs underneath us again and back to live action," Mines women's coach Ryan Larsen said of the 65-32 win over Nebraska Christian.
Hardrocker men's coach Eric Glenn echoed Larsen's thoughts. His team beat Nebraska Christian 84-78.
"It was a good game to play, to shake the rust off, and that is actually what we did," Glenn said. "We came back a little rusty defensively and we were able to see a few things we need to work on before we head out on this road trip."
For the Yellow Jackets, both head coaches are pleased with how their teams came back from the break.
"These road trips, we're almost getting too used to them," BHSU women's coach Mark Nore said. "We just need to play. It will be about 19 days and it is one of those unknowns basically. I thought we came back in good shape, so I think they did their workouts. We've been practicing going two-a-days, so they are done with practicing. It's time for a game and get it going again."
Added Yellow Jacket men's coach Ryan Thompson: "We had a long break, but I was pretty pleased with our guys when they came back. They weren't quite as rusty as I anticipated. They did a good job of staying in shape, getting their shots up and working on their game. We've had a good week and half of practice leading up to this weekend."
The Mines women come into the weekend 1-4 in league play and 4-5 on the season.
Hardrocker senior Taylor Molstad leads the Hardrocker offense at 10.4 points per game, while juniors Anna Haugen and Cooper Courtney are averaging just over eight points each.
"I'm more convened about us. We've been in an offensive lull for some weeks no. We have shown flashes but just haven't been consistent. I'm optimistic that it will come," Larsen said.
BHSU, the preseason top pick in the RMAC, is 4-1 and 8-1 overall..
"We are a solid team and we have some kids stepping up after a lot of injuries. I think Morgan Ham, Julia Seamans and Raquel Wienjtes have been real consistent for us," Nore said. "We just need some more consistency out of the team, but I really do like our team."
Ham leads the team in scoring (14.8 ppg.) and rebounding (6.2 rpg.), while Seamans is scoring 13.7 points a game. Lyndzi Rich is also scoring 10.6 points a game and Remi Wientjes is averaging 10.5 per game, but she has missed three games with injury.
Colorado Mesa is 5-0 in league play and 8-1 overall,
The Lady Mavs are led by senior guard Jaylyn Duran, who is also the RMAC’s leading scorer at 24.2 points per game.
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"Mesa is what they have always been, with physical inside play and good point-guard play. And they have a dynamic scorer who they get a lot of sets for and she takes a lot of shots," Larsen said. "We've had a hard time guarding them, and they are a tremendous team. We have to have a good start in this game."
Western State is ranked 10th in the latest NCAA Division II South Central Regional Poll, and is currently 7-2 on the season (3-2 in the RMAC).
Nore said the weekend will be a good test for his team.
"They are two teams that are playing really well," Nore said. "Every one of us has some momentum going. Western is physical and they are a team with a lot of grit and they play with a lot of heart. They'll fight for 40 minutes."
On the men's side, the Hardrockers have won three of their last four outings to post a 5-8 overall record and 2-3 conference mark.
Redshirt freshman Mitchell Sueker leads the squad with 12.7 points per game while junior Logan Elers is averaging 11.3 points per game and sophomore Troy Brady is scoring 9.9 points per game.
Glenn is happy with where his team is at.
"Starting two freshmen and one sophomore, we have made some great progress," he said. "I thought we finished on a pretty good note, beating Fort Lewis and played 30 good minutes of basketball, but just running out of gas at Alamosa (Adams State). The break came at a good time for us as we came back pretty recharged and the practices have been spirited."
Although the Yellow Jackets are off to a surprising 5-0 start in league play (6-3 overall), Thompson said they went in thinking they had a good team and would be in position to have a good year.
"At the end of the day we have only played five games out of 22, so a lot of things can happen," he said. "But we feel like our best basketball is ahead of us and we haven't peaked. There are a lot of things we can get better at, so that is our focus, to get better each day and do the best job we can each day."
Senior Fraser Malcolm leads the Jackets in scoring at 15.8 points a game, followed by Dez Stoudamire at 10.8 and Tyler Oliver at 10.7 points a game. Connor O'Hearn is averaging 9.8 points a game.
Colorado Mesa is 8-3 and 3-2 and has the RMAC’s second rated offense, putting up 86.1 points per game and are allowing 78.5 points a game, ranked 10th in the RMAC. The Mavericks have the league’s second-leading scorer Connor Nichols, who is averaging 21.7 points per game.
"Mesa has a new coach and does a great job of using a lot of ball screens and they make it difficult with their spacing on the court to defend their actions. They are a good team," Thompson said.
Western State, coached by former BHSU coach Bradd Schafer, is 0-5 in league play and 3-8 overall, but a dangerous team on its home court. Senior Quincy Harding leads the team with 21 points a game and is the RMAC’s third leading scorer.
"Western State is a lot better than their record indicates. They are a team that beat Air Force, a Division I team, by 20 points, and beat the fourth-ranked team (D-2) in the country, West Texas A&M, earlier in the year," Thompson said. "They have struggled in conference, but I anticipate them playing a lot better Friday night."
Glenn said both Mesa and Western are two good offensive teams, and his team, the league's top defensive squad, will have to play that way to be successful.
"Mesa does a really good job of throwing some different lineups at you, giving you some mis-match problems," he said. "I know Bradd really well from his days at Black Hills State, and we're good friends. I know his team are always good offensively as well. he has a good player in Quincy Harding, who is a handful. For us, is is not how are we going to stop him, but how are we going to contain him?"