People often don’t remember how teams start a season — what really matters is how they finish. The same could be said for this season’s Dickinson State basketball teams.
The men’s basketball team started the season with a cold streak, not picking up its first win of the season until Nov. 19 against Yellowstone Christian College with a 84-69 victory over the Centurions. The team then nearly defeated the University of Providence at its next game but fell short 98-94. The Blue Hawks ended the first half of the season with a 3-9 record and ended their final four games of the season with a 2-2 split, with one of those wins being against NSAA rival Valley City, making them 1-0 in conference play.
“I hope we realize how hard we have to play for 40 minutes,” head coach Josh Vaughn said. “To beat good teams and to be the team that we’re supposed to be. ... Our schedule is hard, but we played a couple really good teams ... we’re capable, but we just have to be able to play 40 straight minutes.”
Vaughn hopes the team is able to build stronger on defense, which has been the Blue Hawks’ main focus all throughout this season. But also hopes that the team is able to keep up the same amount of hardworking consistency throughout the remainder of the season.
Despite the Blue Hawks being predicted to finish second in the NSAA, Vaughn hopes the team looks past that and plays harder, knowing DSU is going to get the opponents’ best every single night, especially in conference play.
“It really doesn’t matter (where) you’re picked originally; it’s how you play throughout the year,” he said. “Our guys just have to understand that we’re the hunted now and just because we were picked (second) and people know we’re talented, we’re just not going to be able to show up and expect (the game) to go well. We have to make it go well for ourselves.”
Vaughn hopes the team will be fully present in its road game against Rocky Mountain on Jan. 3, but is looking forward to the full week of practice before beginning NSAA conference play against Bellevue University on Jan. 10.
As for the women’s team, after winning its first game of the season against Brandon University 71-61, Dickinson State went on a five-game losing skid before defeating Yellowstone Christian College 66-59. The team is currently 3-8 overall and was unable to pull out its only NSAA game so far this season with a 91-78 loss to Valley City.
“I think our nonconference schedule was pretty tough,” head coach Eric Nelson said. “We played a lot of NCAA D-II teams ... those good teams showed us our weaknesses … that allowed us to take the next couple weeks of practice before we start the North Star games to work on those things.”
The Blue Hawks will play in three consecutive road games in Kirkland, Wash., in which the team will be able to play its three final nonconference games before beginning the NSAA conference play starting on Jan. 10.
Nelson is looking forward to getting the team back on the court, especially after a longer break.
“We had a couple really good practices; that was encouraging to see,” he said. “We just want to see progress and we want to continue to get better each practice. We want to see these next three games in Washington go well for us and try to work on the things that we need to get better at.”