Fitting first Frontier foe: DSU hosts familiar face Rocky Mountain for first game in new conference
It seems fitting that the Dickinson State men's basketball team is playing Rocky Mountain College in its first official Frontier Conference game. Not only are the two geographic rivals -- 320 miles is sometimes as close as teams can get in the sp...
It seems fitting that the Dickinson State men's basketball team is playing Rocky Mountain College in its first official Frontier Conference game.
Not only are the two geographic rivals -- 320 miles is sometimes as close as teams can get in the spread-out league -- the Blue Hawks and Bears share a coaching rivalry rooted on Rocky's campus in Billings, Mont., where DSU head coach Ty Orton played when the Bears' head coach, Bill Dreikosen, was still an assistant.
"When we play them, I always know that if we can match their effort and intensity level, we don't know what the outcome will be but it'll be a lot better than if we don't," Dreikosen said.
Despite this being their first game as members of the same conference, it's safe to say the two teams know each other well.
"It's one of those games where we have to go out there and play our style of game," Orton said. "They have their own style and we have our own style. Sometimes when we get in trouble is when we play too fast with our style. Not necessarily someone else's style, it's that we play too fast."
The Blue Hawks host Rocky at 7:30 p.m. today at Scott Gymnasium in the Frontier opener for both teams.
DSU, with a 3-4 overall record, is a team still trying to find its bearings.
A two-week layoff following the postponement of two games due to weather didn't help the Blue Hawks one bit, Orton said.
"We were basically beating up on each other for two weeks," said DSU senior forward Johnie Sanders, who leads the team with 12.5 points per game. "We were ready to play other teams, but we didn't have a chance to do that because of the weather. It made us better. We got tougher off of that, but we didn't know where we were at. We didn't play anybody else, all we were doing was playing each other."
Injuries haven't helped the Blue Hawks' shaky start.
Sanders played hurt during the Sam Milanovich Classic weekend and senior forward Matt Lee missed a game for injury reasons. Senior forward Jarek Hansen will likely play tonight despite illness, though he's doubtful to start. Junior guard Brock Boos is just now getting back into a flow after missing much of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
While some of the setbacks have allowed Orton to test the team in different situations, he said it has helped them begin to determine a rotation.
"We're still trying to figure out who's who and what's what," Orton said. "The bench has shortened up a little bit. They're starting to see who's backing up who, when they're going to go in, when they're not going to go in. I think they're starting to understand roles a little bit better."
Meanwhile, Rocky (7-3) has won four of its last five games and received votes in the latest NAIA Division I coaches' poll.
While DSU has used a variety of different lineups, the Bears know very well who they're putting on the floor and when. They've used the same starting lineup each game and those five account for 83 percent of their scoring and 68 percent of their rebounding.
"I think we have quite a few kids this year, depending on the game situation, and how things are going that night, that I can trust to be out there to finish a game," Dreikosen said.
The Bears are led by 6-foot-9 junior forward Joel Barndt, who leads the team with 14.9 points and 9.1 rebounds. Junior forward Jeremy Nicolas averages 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds a game and sophomore guard Malachi Roberts chips in 14 points and 4.3 rebounds.
"We need to make Rocky beat us," Orton said. "Don't give them turnovers, don't give them easy layups, don't give them second-chance points"
If the Blue Hawks could snatch a victory away from the Bears today, players believe it would give them a boost coming into the final part of their nonconference schedule.
DSU visits Jamestown College at 5 p.m. Saturday and hosts South Dakota Mines at 4 p.m. Sunday in a makeup of the game postponed because of icy road conditions in early November.
"I think, right now, this is the biggest game we have all year," DSU junior point guard Ty Ackelson said. "We only have one conference game before Christmas break, so it would be good to get momentum."