The first game of the season meant everything for the Dickinson State men's basketball team. Some questioned how the team would play under the new head coach Derek Selvig in Scotts Gymnasium, and if the team could battle with Selvig’s former team that had a roster filled with athleticism and height. Some even had the Oledigger's favored. However, the Blue Hawks answered those questions by silencing the doubters with a strong 82-59 blowout victory on Friday.
After being placed seventh in the NSAA coaches poll, the Blue Hawks were prepared to send a message to the entire NAIA DII conference, they were going to be a challenge. The Blue Hawks did that by opening the new 2020-21 season with a performance that will be viewed as one of the best season openers in the history of the program.
“I feel really good about the win,” Selvig said. “(Montana Tech) is a really talented team, to hold them to 59 points is incredible. Credit the (players), we got nine guys in that rotation right now, they are playing a lot of minutes but they just grinded it out. It was a team effort for sure.”
Both teams hit 37% of their overall shots of the night. However, as a team, Dickinson State recorded 19 total turnovers, but forced Montana Tech to commit 24. The Blue Hawks also found success in the paint by pushing the action and getting to the free throw line where the team connected on 36 of its 45 free throws.
While wanting to prove the team was better than what others may have thought, the players also wanted to get a win for Selvig in his first matchup against his former players and his former partner, Olediggers’ head coach Adam Hiatt.
“Everything I learned (about coaching), I learned from Adam Hiatt,” Selvig said.
Needing to get off to a strong start, the Blue Hawks controlled the offense and defensive pace in the first half. The team came out firing, connecting on 40% of its shots taken, compared to the Olediggers’ 35%. Despite not hitting a 3-pointer in the second half, the Blue Hawks went 6-of-12 from deep in the first.
In his first official game as a Blue Hawk, sophomore guard Trey Hladky came off the bench, but played a solid 25 minutes that ignited Dickinson State to the victory. After making his first official entrance onto the court in the first half, Hladky showed off his range with back-to-back 3-point daggers and continued to make clutch plays that got the fans, coaches, and players fired up about the young guard.
Hladky finished the half by scoring 14 of his 16 points, shooting 60% from both the field and the 3-point line. Hladky recorded three of his five steals in the first half. His final steal of the half came with eight seconds remaining in the half, allowing for Dickinson State to head into the locker room full of momentum while leading the Olediggers 44-26. Hladky’s performance in the first half showed a mentality that only a few athletes possess, making himself known as a key athlete on this young Blue Hawk roster.
“It was really exciting,” Hladky said. “We had some guys get into foul trouble and I just wanted to step in, give us a spark, get us going, and I think my teammates did a good job of getting me those shots. It was a good game.”
Montana Tech shot better in the second half, hitting 40% of its overall shots, compared to the Blue Hawks’ 32%, and connected on 34% of its 3-pointers in the second half. Montana Tech may have had a higher percentage of shooting, but the momentum belonged to Dickinson State. The Blue Hawks forced 11 turnovers in the second half, connected on 78% of its free throws and outrebounded the Olediggers 23-15 to help increase the lead throughout the half. The Blue Hawks' largest lead of the game came midway through the second half when the team held a 28-point deficit over its opponent.
Senior forward Ajdin Toskic finished the first half with only nine points and three rebounds, but came out of the locker room wanting to win. Toskic finished the night with 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals while leading the team in minutes played with 37.
Toskic said the team was fired up to get the win for their new coach, and to prove to the NSAA that the team is better than what has been recently projected.
“We just came in with a chip on our shoulder,” Toskic said. “Everybody saw the rankings and saw us coming in seventh, we weren’t happy about that. We’re a new team, we’re pretty young, but we got a lot of heart and with our four seniors and the upperclassmen, we showed that we can ball.”
Dickinson State is now 1-0 in the new season and will look to continue its success as it prepares for the Bellevue Classic starting on Oct. 30 against Doane University.