FRESNO, Calif. – The Dixie State Trailblazers won their third game in a row, this one coming on the road against Fresno Pacific 76-73 Tuesday night.
After grabbing a large first-half lead, Dixie State nearly gave the game away on poor shooting in the second half.
“We got too comfortable after getting a big lead in the first half,” said Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “We made some poor decisions with our shot selection and did not play the defense that we played in the first half.”
Over the first five minutes of the game, the teams played evenly. FPU matched Zac Hunter’s 3-pointer to pull even at 11-11. Dixie State scored the next eight points to go up 19-11. Trevor Hill got half of those at the free throw line. The lead hit double-digits on a rare four-point play by Brandon Simister. Simister’s trey and free throw put DSU up 27-17 with 8:49 remaining in the first half.
The lead reached 16 points when Wade Miller saw his first playing action of the season and promptly nailed a 3-pointer to put DSU up 45-29 with 2:13 on the clock. Dub Price snagged an offensive rebound and got a put-back to finish the scoring in the first half with DSU up 47-31.
“I felt good about how we played in the first half,” said Judkins. “Simister had limited minutes because of foul trouble, but played well and hit a couple of big 3s for us.”
Dixie State shot a blistering 57 percent from the floor and a woeful 53 percent from the line. With DSU’s leading rebounder Josh Fuller out with injury, the Trailblazers still held a 23-20 rebound advantage at the break.
As hot as they shot the ball in the first half, the Blazers struggled in the second half. DSU could only manage one field goal in the first nine minutes, but still managed to hold on the lead. DSU was outscored 17-6 during the drought. Simister and Hunter hit back-to-back layups to push the lead to 57-48 with 9:48 remaining.
Fresno Pacific responded with six straight points in less than one minute. With nine minutes to play, it was 57-54. DSU was able to hit some free throws over the next three minutes and Price’s layup with six minutes left gave the Blazers a 65-57 lead.
Simister nailed his third trey of the game to give DSU a 68-61 lead with 4:15 left. Two consecutive 3-pointers by the Sunbirds pulled them within three again at 70-67. Two consecutive baskets by Kyler Nielson and Marcus Bradley put DSU up 74-67 with 1:51 remaining.
Crucial turnovers allowed FPU to cut the lead to two points, 75-73 with 30 seconds left. After Dixie State got the ball across half court, the Sunbirds were forced to foul Nielson, the only Blazer that had hit all of his free throws to that point. But the strategy paid off as Nielson only got one of two with 15 seconds left. FPU set up a tying play for a 3-pointer and got two shots at the end, but both fell short.
“It was an ugly win,” said Judkins. “But we came out of it without any serious injuries. With Josh (Fuller) out, we got some good playing time for our bigs. We are going to need them as the season progresses.”
The Blazers hit only 32 percent from the floor in the second half, hitting 46 percent for the game. They left 19 points at the free throw line, connecting on only 21 of 40.
Individually, Nielson led the team with 13 points. Simister and Hunter both poured in 12 points. Austin Montgomery led the team with eight rebounds. Trevor Hill led the team with seven assists and three steals.
The Blazers improve to 8-4 overall and 5-1 in the PacWest. They will play Academy of Art on Thursday night at 7:30 Pacific Time. Fresno Pacific falls to 1-11 overall and 1-4 in the PacWest.
Dixie State 72, Fresno Pacific 64
Career highs in points and rebounds by Ashlee Burge led the Trailblazers to their first win of the season Tuesday night. Burge had a double-double with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
The two teams were knotted early at 7-7 after the first four minutes. But the remainder of the quarter saw Dixie State go on a 14-7 run. Burge and point guard Tramina Jordan both had six points during the run.
In the second, the Sunbirds made a few runs, but each time Dixie State responded. At halftime, the lead remained at seven points, 42-35. It was the Trailblazers first lead they have held all year at halftime.
DSU increased its lead in the third. With just over five minutes to play, Burge took a great interior feed from Lisa VanCampen, hit the shot, and drew the foul. The subsequent free throw gave DSU a 51-38 lead. The Trailblazers then went on a dry spell over the remainder of the third quarter. The Sunbird defense packed into the lane. The next five DSU shots were 3-point attempts that missed the mark. FPU went on a 10-0 run before Burge would hit a layup to close the quarter and put the lead back to 53-48.
Ali Franks opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, but then Fresno Pacific scored the next nine points to take its first lead since the first quarter. It was 57-56 with 7:23 to play. The lead see-sawed for the next three minutes. When Shelby Kassuba hit a layup with five minutes remaining, DSU captured the lead for good, 60-59.
Two consecutive buckets by Burge gave DSU a cushion and the Sunbirds were forced to foul and put up quick shots at the other end with the time working against them. VanCampen’s two free throws with seven seconds left completed the scoring for DSU and the Trailblazers got the monkey off their backs for their first win of the year.
As a team, DSU shot 49 percent from the field and 75 percent from the line. The Blazers outrebounded FPU 48-22. They also had 21 assists on 26 baskets. Turnovers (23) continue to plague DSU as it had persistent trouble with Fresno Pacific’s full-court press.
Joining Burge with a double-double was Kassuba. She scored 10 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. VanCampen almost joined them with eight points and 12 rebounds. Ali Franks scored 16 points and led the team with three steals. Matti Ventling led the team with seven assists.
Dixie State improves to 1-11 overall and 1-5 in the PacWest. The Blazers continue their road trip with a game Thursday night against Academy of Art. Game time is scheduled for 5:30 Pacific Time. Fresno Pacific falls to 3-10 overall and 0-5 in the PacWest.
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