ST. GEORGE – Azusa Pacific brought its undefeated conference record and nationally-ranked No. 13 team to St. George Saturday night. The Cougars left with their first blemish after a a hard-fought overtime loss to a determined Dixie State team, 97-91 in overtime, inside Burns Arena.
A mad scramble late in regulation saw the Red Storm miss a couple of potential game-winning opportunities, turning the ball over with two seconds left. A desperation trey at the buzzer was off for APU, sending the game into overtime ties at 79-79.
In the overtime period DSU shot perfect from the field, hitting the only two shots they took. The bulk of the Storm’s points would come from the charity stripe, where they connected on 13 of 17. Dixie pushed the lead to six with just under two minutes to play in OT.
After Sandoval halved the deficit with a trey, APU head coach Justin Leslie directed his players to foul DSU freshman Trevor Hill. Hill connected on four straight free throws.
“I have had trouble with my free throws earlier this year,” said Hill. “But recently in practice I have been hitting them. It was great seeing them fall.”
The Dixie lead was 91-86 with a minute left in overtime. Cougar Troy Leaf’s jumper cut it to three 10 seconds later. With Hill taken out of the game, the Cougars fouled Mason Sawyer. He would hit three of his four free throws in the final minute. Leaf would hit another 3-pointer with six seconds left to pull within four, 95-91. The final two points were Robbie Nielson free throws with two seconds on the clock.
Leaf, leading the PacWest conference in scoring at 23 points per game, nearly had his season average in the first eight minutes of the game. He hit his first four 3-pointers and had 19 points with 11:49 remaining in the first half as he put the Cougars up by nine, 25-16. Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins used a platoon of players to try and slow him down. Freshman guard Hill had the assignment most of the night.
“It feels good to have the coach’s confidence,” said Hill. “We kept great pressure on him the entire game.”
Leaf would pick up his second foul at the 7:02 mark and spend most of the remaining first half on the bench. The Red Storm clawed back after the APU’s initial burst to take the lead. DeQuan Thompson’s 3-pointer with six minutes to play pulled DSU even at 33.
On the Cougars’ next possession, point guard Robert Sandoval drove the lane, drawing Zach Robbins off his man, Will Ward. Sandoval dished to Ward under the basket. Robbins turned and jumped simultaneously to block Ward’s shot and snag the rebound. His outlet pass to Collin Woods drew a Cougar foul. Woods’ ensuing free throw gave Dixie its first lead in 10 minutes.
With 2:29 to play in the half, Dixie post Mark Ogden deflected Sandoval’s pass, drove the length of the floor and delivered a rim-rattling dunk to put the Storm up 42-37.
The Storm would stretch the lead to seven on Thompson’s second 3-pointer with one minute left. Two baskets by APU narrowed the lead to three to close the half, 48-45.
Thompson paced the Storm with 14 points in the first half. Dixie shot 57 percent from the field. Dixie also had a huge advantage in free throws, connecting on 80 percent and outscoring APU 12-5 from the line.
The Cougars opened the second half with two quick baskets to regain the lead. Both teams then traded baskets for the next seven minutes. Neither team would have more than a three-point advantage. Ogden’s second dunk, set up by Mason Sawyer’s drive and dish, gave DSU a five-point lead, 61-56.
On APU’s next possession, Hill deflected a pass to Ogden. The Dixie State big man again drove the length of the floor for a monster dunk.
“I had DeQuan (Thompson) out in front of me,” said Ogden. “But I knew if I passed it to him I wouldn’t get it back.” When questioned about the play Thompson smiled, saying, “Yeah, I wouldn’t have given it back.”
Woods would hit a free throw to stretch the lead to eight for the Storm, but APU would not allow the game to slip away and would chip away at the lead over the next eight minutes. Leaf’s 3-pointer with five minutes remaining gave the Cougars the lead back 74-72. The smaller APU squad was getting many of its opportunities on putbacks and at one point held an 11 rebound advantage.
“I told our guys they needed to go after the rebounds,” said Judkins. “We were getting hurt on their second-chance points. I challenged our bigs to block out and get the rebounds and they responded well.” APU still won the battle of the boards, but DSU would close the gap to four, 38-34.
Sandoval would hit a layup with 2:40 remaining to put the Cougars up three, 79-76. After a timeout, the Storm fed Robbins in the post. He spun left and hit a baseline jump hook from the right side to pull Dixie within one. Hill then rebounded Kevin Stafford’s missed 3-pointer at the other end. Thompson was fouled on a drive to the bucket and hit one of two free throws to tie the game with one minute left.
Moments later, Robbins rebounded Leaf’s pull up jump shot. The Storm would have two chances to take the lead but Robbins’ 3-pointer fell short. The Storm rebounded the ball but Sawyer committed a turnover with two seconds left. Stafford’s desperation heave at the buzzer went awry.
Dixie State has beaten two nationally-ranked conference opponents in consecutive games and will face a third on Monday night in Cal Baptist.
“We have a tough conference,” said Judkins. “Every game is a battle. Our kids have responded.”
Leaf led all scorers with 39 points. He was joined in double-figures by Sandoval and Ward with 17 and 15, respectively.
The Storm had five players in double-figures, led by Thompson with 22. Sawyer recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists. They were joined in double-figures by Robbins (14), Zac Hunter (13) and Ogden (10).
The Red Storm improve to 10-5, 7-2 in conference. They will host conference leader and No. 11-ranked Cal Baptist on Monday night at Burns Arena.
“We are excited to get them here,” said Judkins. “They beat us at their place early in the season. Our guys are looking to even the score Monday night.”
Azusa Pacific fall to 15-2, 8-1 in the PacWest.
Stats: DSU 97, APU 91 (F/OT)
Azusa Pacific University 73, Dixie State University 61
Dixie State battled back several times but the women’s basketball team came up short in a 73-61 loss to Azusa Pacific on Saturday.
Dixie State went cold in the second half, but stayed within three points inside the final minutes. Kaylah Miller registered 22 points to lead all scorers, but a balanced attack from Azusa Pacific with all five starters in double-figures helped the Cougars calm the Red Storm.
Taylor Maynes posted 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. DSU shot 33.9 percent for the game to APU’s 40.8 clip. The Cougars out-rebounded Dixie State 50-38, including 21-13 on the offensive glass, resulting in 20 second-chance points to do the Storm in.
Azusa Pacific raced out to a quick lead to start the game, but the Red Storm stayed in the hunt after Maynes drilled a triple from the corner to cut the lead to 19-14. The run continued and Miller drained another to tie up the score at 19-19 with 10:06 to go in the first half.
Dixie State stayed hot and took the lead on a Maynes and-one play on the next possession.
The teams battled to the half and Azusa snuck into locker room with a 36-33 lead. Maynes had 10 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds at halftime.
DSU started out slow in the second half. The Red Storm made just 2 of 14 shots and with 10 minutes left in the game, trailed 53-43.
Back-to-back buckets, including a trey from Miller, made it 57-48 as Dixie State trimmed the lead to single-digits again.
Inside of four minutes, the Red Storm stayed within striking distance and Miller drained two free throws to make it 61-58.
Azusa Pacific answered the run with six straight and Dixie State wasn’t able to close the gap, eventually falling 73-61.
DSU falls to 5-10, 4-5 in the Pac West. Dixie State hosts Cal Baptist on Monday, Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. in the Burns Arena.
Stats: APU 73, DSU 61
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