ThunderWolves begin New Year in South Dakota

PUEBLO, Colo. (January 3, 2017) - The Colorado State University-Pueblo men's basketball team (8-4, 6-1 RMAC) begins the New Year with a pair of Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference road games against South Dakota School of Mines (8-6, 4-4 RMAC) Jan. 6 and Black Hills State University (5-9, 2-6 RMAC) Jan. 7. Friday's contest is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tip, while Saturday's contest is slated for 6 p.m.




Last Time Out
Senior guard Rico Spikes' bucket with 11 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner, as CSU-Pueblo team edged Black Hills State University Friday, 65-64, for its sixth straight victory, which stands as the second longest under sixth-year head coach Ralph Turner. The Pack rattled off eight straight during the 2014-15 season.

CSU-Pueblo led for most the game and were ahead by 13 at 44-31 with 14:34 to play. BHSU battled back and were within one at 53-52, a 21-9 run during seven minutes of play. The Yellow Jackets opened their first lead of the game with 2:52 showing on the game clock and the scoreboard reading 59-57.

The Pack trailed 64-61 with 1:31 left in regulation, but a senior center Nelson Kahler layup with 1:14 remaining moved the game to a one-point affair. A stop on the defensive end set up the Spikes score, which came on an offensive rebound and put-back of his own shot.

BHSU moved the ball to half court and took a timeout with six ticks left to draw up the final shot. The ThunderWolves played stout defense in the final possession and forced an off balanced shot, which fell short to hand the home team the league win.

Spikes led the team with 16 points on 7-of-10 (70%) shooting with five rebounds and a team-high four assists. The senior is shooting 58.6 percent this season. Junior guard Josh Smith added 12 points on four 3-pointers, but more impressively gathered a team-best seven rebounds. He added three assists and two steals with a block. Smith leads the team with 34 3-pointers.

Senior forward Stevan Radakovic added three 3-pointers off the bench to help the Pack total 10 daggers from downtown. He compiled 11 points on 4-of-6 (66.7%) shooting.  Kahler totaled 10 points (eight in the second half) on 5-for-6 (83.3%) shooting. He increased his conference lead in blocks with four and now has 32 on the season.

The Pack shot 46.6 percent from the field, just the second game this season under 50 percent. The ThunderWolves allowed Black Hills State to shoot  47.9 percent, which included a 53.3 percent effort in the second half. The performance was also the best by a Pack opponent in RMAC play this season. CSU-Pueblo attempted just five free throws (made only one), while BHSU was 10-for-12 (83.3%) from the charity stripe.

CSU-Pueblo led in assists (16-9), blocks (7-2) and steals (6-1).

The Hardrockers
The Hardrockers are 8-6 overall (4-4 RMAC), but have won four of their last six games. SDM&T are 6-1 at home this season, which includes a victory versus then-No. 18 Colorado Mines. South Dakota Mines has the worst turnover margin in the RMAC (-3.6) and are averaging 13.1 turnovers per game. The Hardrockers are guided by Konor Kulas, who ranks first in the league in field goal shooting (65.5%), second in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and fourth in scoring (19.1 ppg).

Last Season versus the Hardrockers
In the lone meeting with South Dakota Mines last season, the Pack won 89-53 at home. Josh Smith knocked down four 3-pointers and totaled 13 points, while Nelson Kahler added 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
The Yellow Jackets
The Yellow Jackets are 5-9 overall and 2-6 in league play. BHSU is 1-4 in their last five games, which includes two losses at home where they are 5-3 this season (includes a 57-56 upset of No. 18 Colorado Mines). Black Hills State is second in the league in scoring defense (65.6 ppg), but last in scoring offense (64.2 ppg). The Yellow Jackets are first in the RMAC in field goal percentage defense (39.8%), but second to last in field goal shooting (42.7%). They are led by Zach McLemore's 12.1 points per game. Fraser Malcolm adds 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Last Time vs the Yellow Jackets
The ThunderWolves defeated the Yellow Jackets at home Friday, 65-64. In the last meeting in Spearfish, the Pack won 67-66, Jan. 24, 2015. Stevan Radakovic scored the final five points for the Pack to erase a 66-62 deficit in the final 1:37. His layup with 19 ticks left was the game winner.

Sweet Shooting
The Pack are shooting 51.3 percent from the field this season, which is second in the RMAC and sits 13th nationally. CSU-Pueblo shot above 50 percent in each of the first eight games and nine of the 12 contests. The Pack have three players shooting above 55 percent, guided by Nelson Kahler's 62.8 percent, which ranks second in the RMAC.

Block Party
Kahler finished first in the RMAC with 64 blocks last season, which ranked 22nd nationally. His 2.21 blocks per game was 21st. He owns 32 blocked shots this season to again lead the league and rank tied for fifth nationally. The 2.67 swats per game is 10th in NCAA Division II.

As a team, the ThunderWolves lead the RMAC and rank 12th nationally in total blocks with 60. The 5.0 blocked shots per game is 17th in NCAA Division II.

Bench Play
The Pack have scored more points off the bench than their opponent in nine of 12 games this season.

Guards Leading the Way
The Pack's leading scorer is Mark Williams with 14.4 points per game (13th in the RMAC). He has come off the bench in 11 of the 12 games. He is shooting 57.7 percent from the field (eight in RMAC) and adds 5.8 rebounds per game. The leading rebounder is guard Rico Spikes, who has 6.3 rebounds per contest to sit 10 in the RMAC. He is shooting 58.6 percent to rank fifth in the league. Will Newman's 4.3 assists per game (52 total) ranks fourth in the conference. His 2.0 assist/turnover ratio is good for fifth in the RMAC.

Long Range
The ThunderWolves finished 10th nationally last season with 11.0 3-pointers per game and hit on a 37.7 percentage (4th in the RMAC). This season, the Pack are shooting at a 41.2 percent clip from long range to sit 24th nationally. CSU-Pueblo has knocked down 9.4 3-pointers per contest, which is fourth in the RMAC.

Smith has 34 buckets from beyond the arc to sit fifth in the RMAC, while Liggett's 32 daggers from downtown is seventh. Liggett has shot 32-of-68 (47.1%) from long range this season to sit 38th nationally.

Liggett hit nine against Texas A&M Commerce Nov. 25 to fall one shy of the program record. The mark is the most in the RMAC this season and is tied for the third most in NCAA Division II in 2016-17.

Helping Hand
The Pack are second in the conference with 16.1 assists per game.

Getting Buckets
The ThunderWolves are second in the league and 48th in the country with 85.2 points per game. The team's +6.8 scoring margin is third.

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As a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Colorado State University – Pueblo competes in 22 varsity sports in NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletics.