AZUSA, Calif. – Dixie State lost a heartbreaker Saturday afternoon, with Azusa Pacific stealing a home win 104-13 in overtime. DSU led by nine with under two minutes to play, but couldn’t hold on.
Azusa rallied, but two free throws from Kyler Nielson gave Dixie State a six-point lead with 35 seconds left. The Cougars worked the ball to Connor Peterson, who drained a 3-pointer with 24 seconds on the clock.
Brandon Simister took the inbounds pass and appeared to draw a foul from APU, but the whistle did not blow. Simister lost the ball. It was picked up by APU’s Justin Byrd. The Cougars got the ball to sharpshooter Joey Schreiber, who drained a trey with 11 seconds remaining. That eventually led to overtime, where the Cougars pulled out the win, 104-103.
“There was probably a foul there at the end,” said Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “But we have told our guys you can’t expect those calls on the road. We still had the ball with nine seconds left and did not even get a shot off. It is a tough loss. We would have liked to go 3-0 in conference against the better teams in the conference, but we will take 2-1.”
The game was jump-started by a trey from Simister. The DSU point guard added another basket as the Trailblazers pulled out to an 8-3 lead. The Cougars fought back to tie the game at 10 apiece with a 3-pointer from Will Ferris. Dixie State then went on a 7-0 run behind two baskets from Dub Price.
The Cougars responded with an 8-0 run to take the lead. Again, it was the sharpshooting behind the arc that brought them back. Connor Peterson and Corey Langerveld both hit from distance and the lead was 18-17 APU with 11:48 remaining in the half.
Dixie State then outscored the home team 10-1 over the next two minutes. Simister hit another 3-pointer and Trevor Hill got three the old-fashioned way and DSU had its biggest lead of the first half, 27-19.
Dixie State maintained the lead most of the way and with 2:44 remaining, led by seven on Hill’s drive to the basket, 41-34. But the Cougars closed strong with a 10-2 run to take the lead into halftime 44-43. Ferris and Joey Schreiber both hit 3-pointers in the stretch.
At the half, DSU held the edge in shooting percentage, 55-44 percent. But APU hit 54 percent of its 3s. Five different players hit 50 percent or better from the arc.
“We discussed their shooters at halftime,” said Judkins. “Particularly Schreiber, who is a catch and shoot guy. We had to know where he was and make him put it on the floor.”
After halftime, the Dixie State defenders did well on closing out on the 3-point shooters. Through the first several minutes, the lead see-sawed and neither team could get further than five points up. Zac Hunter hit three consecutive shots for Dixie State to give the Blazers an 80-74 lead with 4:16 remaining.
Hill’s three-point play put DSU up 83-76 with just over three minutes remaining. Fuller’s tip-in with 2:32 on the clock put DSU up 85-78. Fuller and Hill then each split two free throws to give DSU its largest lead of the night 87-78 with 1:51 remaining.
Dixie State hit 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to get to the 93-87 lead before the final plays of regulation.
“I thought we played their outside shooters better in the second half till the last couple of minutes,” said Judkins. “Then they got hot again when they needed it. Give them credit, they hit some tough shots at the end.”
In the overtime, it was the Cougars who jumped to the early lead 97-93. Hill drew a foul for two free throws and Nielson got a layup to knot the score at 97 with 3:13 left in overtime. After an APU free throw, the two teams traded the lead back and forth.
APU led 102-101 with 50 seconds left. Hill again drew the foul and hit one of two for the tie with 31 seconds left. With one second separating game and shot clocks, the Cougars ran down the clock. Peterson drove the lane and missed the layup, but Byrd got the offensive rebound and the putback for the 104-102 lead with 1.1 seconds left.
“Our guys played good defense on the last play,” said Judkins. “They ran a high pick-and-roll. Our guys played it well and forced the shooter to throw up a crazy shot. It takes a funny roll and lands into the hands of their big guy who tipped it in.”
The APU crowd and bench rushed the floor prematurely and the Cougars received a technical foul.
“Unfortunately, in that situation it is only a one-shot penalty instead of two,” said Judkins. “That did not help us too much.”
Simister hit the free throw to pull within 104-103. Taking the ball out under the APU basket Hill’s baseball pass did not connect and the clock ran out on the Trailblazers.
For the game, Dixie State outshot APU 55-43 percent. While the Cougars shot worse beyond the arc in the second half, they still connected on 42 percent from the game. The Blazers were hurt at the free throw line. Though they outscored APU 25-21, they missed 12, with a few of those coming on the front end of one-and-ones.
“We have had poor foul shooting all year but it has not hurt us,” said Judkins. “But we kept telling our guys that it is going to cost us if we don’t improve. Tonight it cost us.”
Individually for Dixie State, Hill led the team with a double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds. Simister, Nielson and Fuller joined him in double figures with 23, 18 and 17, respectively. Hill also led the team with seven assists and two steals.
Dixie State’s five-game winning streak was snapped. They move to 5-4 on the year and 2-1 in the PacWest. Azusa Pacific gets their first win in conference (1-2) and moves to 5-7 overall.
Dixie State will return home next Saturday to host Notre Dame de Namur. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Azusa Pacific 87, Dixie State 59
The Trailblazers completed the second half of their California road trip with a loss against APU. Again, Dixie State competed without three of their starters that failed to make the trip.
The Blazers were out of the game early as Azusa jumped out to a 22-9 first quarter lead and extended that to 48-22 at halftime. The lead was 34 points at the end of three. The Blazers did win the fourth, but never challenged from the outset.
Shelby Kassuba led the team in scoring for the second game in a row with 14 points. She was joined in double figures by Tramina Jordan and Hannah Roberts with 10 apiece. Kassuba also led the team with nine rebounds.
Azusa Pacific improves to 4-7 overall and 2-1 in the PacWest. Dixie State falls to 0-9 overall and 0-3 in conference play. The Trailblazers return home to face Notre Dame de Namur next Saturday. Game time begins at 5 p.m.
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