RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A strong opening of the second half surged Dixie State to a lead that it would not give up to get a huge win against undefeated and No. 3-ranked California Baptist 75-71 Thursday night.
Trailing by five at intermission, the Trailblazers hit four of their first five shots to take an early 37-35 lead with 17:27 remaining. The lead see-sawed for the next four minutes, but when Dixie State point guard Brandon Simister drained two free throws with 13:50 remaining, the Blazers took the lead for good. Marcus Bradley followed those up with a three-point play to give DSU a 48-44 lead, the largest to that point.
“We came out strong in the second half,” said Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “I thought that we were tentative in the first half. They did a good job denying the passes and disrupting the offense. We told our guys to get some back doors. Those led to some layups in the first few minutes. That forced them to stop overplaying our passes and from then on, we were able to run our offense more effectively.”
The lead quickly grew as the Blazers went on an 11-6 run. Dub Price’s 3-pointer from the top of the key put DSU up 59-50 with just under 10 minutes showing on the clock. Price hit two more baskets in short order to match the output at the other end.
“That was a great stretch for us,” said Judkins. “Dub (Price) did a good job both shooting the ball, but also rebounding and on the defensive end. Both he and Bradley gave us good minutes off the bench when Josh (Fuller) and Zac (Hunter) got into foul trouble.”
But then Lancer big man Kalidou Diouf went on a 5-0 run of his own to cut the Blazer lead to two points with 7:28 remaining.
The teams traded baskets over the next seven minutes. The Lancers would cut the lead to two only to see the Blazers get it back to four points at the offensive end. With the Blazers up four, 71-67, Kyler Nielson secured the defensive rebound with just over one minute remaining and the Lancers were forced to foul.
“That was really our only negative in the second half,” said Judkins. “We have good free throw shooters. They should not be missing those at the end of the game. If we hit our free throws, the game is not even close at the end.”
The plan worked initially with the Blazers connecting on only 2 of 5. A layup by Lancers leading scorer Michael Smith cut the lead to 73-71 with five seconds left. Simister took the inbounds pass, drew the foul and hit both free throws to ensure the victory.
At the start of the game, the defenses ruled the court. Through the first eight minutes, the score was only 10-10. CBU then scored five straight, all from the line.
The Lancers eventually got the lead to as high as eight just before the last media timeout of the first half. Diouf’s three-point play gave the Lancers a 27-19 advantage. Bradley and Simister kept DSU close. Bradley, who came off the bench when starter Joshua Fuller got into foul trouble, provided valuable offensive punch in the first half. As the half wound down, Trevor Hill took the ball to the hoop and scored a basket as time expired to cut the lead to 34-29.
Dixie State had one of its better shooting nights from the field, hitting 31 of 61 for 51 percent. The Blazers held the Lancers to 37 percent, a full 10 points below their average. The Blazers outrebounded CBU 41-35.
Individually for the Blazers, Hill led the team with 15 points. Nielson and Bradley scored 14 and 13, respectively. Price led the team with seven rebounds.
Dixie State improves to 5-3 overall and 2-0 in the PacWest. Cal Baptist falls to 8-1 (1-1). The Blazers now travel to Azusa, Calif., to play the Azusa Pacific Cougars on Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m. Pacific Time.
California Baptist 104, Dixie State 56
With three of their starters, Matti Ventling , Lisa VanCampen and Ashlee Burge, missing the trip, the Trailblazers made a go of it for one quarter, trailing the Lady Lancers 22-20. But Cal Baptist took advantage of 10 Blazer turnovers in the second quarter to put distance between them at the half 54-28.
The miscues continued as DSU committed eight more turnovers in each of the final two quarters. For the game, Cal Baptist had a 42-14 edge on points off turnovers. They had a similar advantage in the paint, outscoring DSU 44-18, and blanked the Blazers on the fast break 18-0.
Individually for the Blazers, Shelby Kassuba led the team with 18 points. Tramina Jordan and Hannah Roberts also scored in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Kassuba also led the team with seven rebounds. Dixie State falls to 0-7 overall and 0-2 in the PacWest. The Blazers will play against Azusa Pacific on Saturday for the second half of their road trip. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. Pacific Time.
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