It took some time for the Black Hills State men’s basketball team to find a groove in their opening-round game against Colorado School of Mines in the NCAA Division II Tournament on Saturday.
The No. 6 Yellow Jackets trailed by a pair at halftime, but ran away from the No. 3 Orediggers in the second half.
BHSU stood strong on the defensive end to advance in the South Central Region with a 68-48 victory at the First United Bank Center in Canyon, Texas.
“Everybody was bought in,” senior Sindou Cisse told The Journal. “Everybody was locked in and we had great team chemistry. We were practicing all week, so we had a good amount of time to build that chemistry.”
Black Hills State returns to action in the region semifinals at 4 p.m. MT Sunday against No. 2 Fort Lewis at West Texas A&M.
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The Yellow Jackets (26-5) limited the Orediggers to 36.2% from the field on 21 of 58 shooting and only surrendered 2 of 19 shots from 3-point range.
BHSU forced 14 Mines turnovers and nabbed eight steals in a dominant defensive performance.
“We were really tough on the defensive end,” Jackets coach Ryan Thompson said. “We were so physical, and that showed up with our ability to rebound against a Colorado Mines team that’s been the best in the RMAC at rebounding.”
BHSU finished plus-four in rebound margin with 42 total boards and 10 offensive boards.
Four Yellow Jackets finished the day in double figures as Joel Scott led the way with 13 points, nine boards and two assists. Matthew Ragsdale and P.J. Hayes each added 12 points and Cisse totaled 10 points and four assists.
Thompson said it was the most confident his team has looked this season, and that hopefully the game set the table for another strong showing in the national tournament.
“You couldn’t ask for a better defensive performance to start off the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “To limit a Colorado Mines team that’s as talented as they are and has as many weapons as they do…we feel we can defend at a really high level.”
BHSU shot 39.4% from the field on 26 of 66 shooting and knocked down 7 of 25 3-pointers.
The Yellow Jackets racked up 34 points in the paint, 16 second-chance points and scored 14 points off the bench in a balanced offensive showing.
“The key was just everybody playing for each other,” Cisse said. “We focused on that throughout the week and it’s something we talked about since (the RMAC Tournament). Everybody fought for each other and fought to be positive for each other.”
Thompson said Sunday’s rematch with Fort Lewis will be a big test for his team.
The Skyhawks downed the Yellow Jackets twice in the regular season and on March 3 in the RMAC Tournament semifinals. BHSU led the last two matchups by double digits in the first half but failed to secure a victory down the stretch.
“I think we’re confident,” Thompson said. “We understand that over the course of 40 minutes if we force them into as many tough shots as we can and we’re efficient on the offensive end, it should work out in our favor.”
Contact Alex Dodd at ADodd@rapidcityjournal.com
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