ST. GEORGE – Those free throw shots haven’t been so free for Dixie State lately and Monday night, they almost cost the Trailblazers the game. Almost.
Poor free throw shooting continues to plague the Dixie State men’s basketball team. Subpar shooting down the stretch allowed the visiting Sea Lions of Point Loma to force an extra session before DSU finally prevailed, 83-80.
“We hit our free throws in practice,” said Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “They have good form. We are not throwing up bricks. It is a mental thing. We have already lost one game because of poor free-throw shooting and we will lose more unless we figure it out.”
Quincy Matthews’ interior dish to Josh Fuller led to a layup and gave the Trailblazers a 72-65 lead with two and a half minutes to play in regulation. A turnover and two crucial misses at the line allowed Point Loma to score the final seven points to get to overtime.
All-totaled, Dixie State was 18 for 33 from the line and just 2 for 6 in the last seven minutes of regulation.
Matthews opened the overtime with a drive and two points. Point Loma took its only lead when leading scorer Josh Rodriguez hit from NBA range to give PLNU a 76-75 lead. Dixie State took the lead for good when Fuller hit both of his free throws on the next possession.
Probably the biggest play of the extra session came at the Trailblazers’ defensive end. Brandon Simister chased Rodriguez off the 3-point line. Rodriguez drove and Fuller drew the charge, knocking Point Loma’s primary scoring option out of the game with his fifth foul.
“We knew coming in that Point Loma liked to shoot the 3,” said Judkins. “They shot 41 tonight (as opposed to only 23 inside the arc). Our game plan was to take that away from them. Josh (Fuller) did a good job. He drew a couple of charges tonight.”
Trevor Hill then drove the lane and dished to Fuller for another basket and a 78-75 lead with 3:31 left in overtime. After empty possessions for both teams, Hill drove the lane and scored with the left hand in traffic to give DSU a cushion 80-75.
The Sea Lions scored to draw to 80-77 and called a timeout. The strategy seemed apparent – Foul quickly, then set up a 3-pointer at the other end. The fouling strategy seemed to work as three consecutive Dixie State players went to the line and hit only one of two shots. However, the other phase of the strategy was unsuccessful as Point Loma missed three 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. Zac Hunter came up big in the overtime session with two key defensive rebounds. With DSU sporting an 83-77 lead, Point Loma hit a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the score to its final margin.
“Just as they broke out early by hitting the long ball at the beginning of the game, it hurt them in the end,” said Judkins. “Our defense closed out and the shots they took at the end were tough shots.”
Point Loma hit seven of their first eight 3-pointers to open the game and sported a 32-20 lead with 6:29 remaining in the first half. At that point, the visiting team finally cooled down and DSU made a late 19-5 run to close the half with a two-point lead.
“The last six minutes of the first half were big,” said Judkins. “It started with a big 3-pointer from Daylor (Youngblood). But we got great defense and rebounding from Dub (Price) and Quincy (Matthews).”
Simister also had 10 of his 14 first-half points during the run. His 3-pointer just before half put the Blazers up 39-37.
“I felt good shooting tonight,” said Simister. “Defensively, we were able to counter their screens effectively toward the end of the first half and in the second. Our bigs do a great job calling out the screens and the coverage where we either fight through or go under the screen, or follow our man around the screen.”
The opening moments of the second half saw the Blazers slowly add to their lead. Hill’s free throw with 13:22 on the clock gave the Blazers their largest lead of the game, 57-45.
Over the next six minutes, the Sea Lions chipped away at the lead. Rodriguez’ layup with 6:54 remaining completed a 17-6 run to pull PLNU to within 63-62. Dixie State responded with a 10-2 run, leading them to the final moments in regulation.
As a team, Dixie State shot 50 percent from the floor. That marked the fourth game in a row DSU has been able to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor. The Blazers outrebounded PLNU 39-37. They connected on only 18 of 33 from the charity stripe for 55 percent.
Individually, Simister led the team with 21 points. Hill scored nine points, matched Fuller with six rebounds and led the team with seven assists. Fuller and Mathews joined Simister in double figures with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Both hit 67 percent from the floor. Mathews played in only his second game back since an early-season injury.
“I played more relaxed tonight,” said Mathews. “I let the game come to me. I was able to penetrate and get good looks.”
With the win, Dixie State moves to 7-4 overall and 4-1 in the Pac West. Point Loma falls to 5-6 overall and 2-3 in conference play. The Blazers will now get 15 days off before traveling to northern California for a three-game road trip. On Jan. 3, they will face Fresno Pacific. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Point Loma Nazarene 83, Dixie State 62
The Dixie State women’s basketball team fell to Point Loma on Monday at the Burns Arena after the Sea Lions used a big second half to clinch an 83-62 victory.
For the second straight game, the Trailblazers (0-11, 0-5 PacWest) raced to a double-digit lead in the first quarter. PLNU took a 5-0 lead, but DSU responded with a 19-7 run, keyed by eight points and two 3-pointers from Tramina Jordan, over the final seven minutes of the quarter to take a 19-12 lead after one quarter.
Dixie State extended the lead to 20-12 early in the second quarter on an Ali Franks free throw, before Point Loma began to methodically chip away at the lead. The Sea Lions used a 17-4 run over a six-minute span to turn a 25-17 deficit into a 32-29 lead with 1:29 remaining in the period. The teams traded baskets before Ali Franks nailed a jumper to tie the game at 34-34 at the halftime break.
The Trailblazers opened the third quarter on a 5-1 run to take a 39-35 lead with 8:45 remaining in the period. But, the Sea Lions countered with a 23-8 run over the final eight minutes to take a 58-47 advantage into the final period.
Point Loma opened the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run before Ali Franks canned a 3-pointer to trim the lead to 69-52. But DSU would get no closer, as PLNU clinched the 83-62 victory.
Dixie State shot 37 percent (18-of-48) from the field, 33 percent (7-of-21) from 3-point range, and 67 percent (19-of-28) from the free throw line. Jordan led three players in double figures with 18 points, while Ali Franks finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, and Shelby Kassuba added 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Trailblazers now break for the Christmas holiday and return to action on Dec. 31 in an exhibition matchup at Utah Valley in Orem.
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