ST. GEORGE – Dixie State got an unexpected battle from a BYU-Hawaii in its last year of playing intercollegiate sports. The Seasiders led by seven at the half and battled deep into the night before succumbing to the Trailblazers 88-74 Thursday night in Burns Arena.
BYU-Hawaii led early thanks to some sharp shooting from Tanner Nelson and Shad Watson. Dixie State regrouped, adjusted its defensive play and rode big man Marcus Bradley’s dominating play inside to pull off the win.
“We started out great, getting to a quick 11-6 lead,” said Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “Then they came out and hit a couple of big shots and rode that momentum to the lead.”
Watson’s 3-pointer with 8:14 remaining in the first half gave BYU-H its first lead of the game. The Seasiders slowly added to their lead. With two minutes remaining, Nelson’s 3-pointer put BYU-H up 38-30. One minute later, the lead grew to 41-32 on Joohan Lee’s trey. Kyler Nielson cut the halftime score to 41-34 on his jumper in the lane with 13 seconds left.
“At halftime, we were outrebounding them and we were taking care of the ball at our end,” said Judkins. “So we talked about how to adjust to their screens and closing out on their two shooters (Watson and Nelson).”
At halftime, the duo were a combined 5 of 8 from distance and had scored 24 points.
It did not take long for the Blazers to respond. They outscored BYU-H 13-4 and before the first media timeout of the second half, DSU had reclaimed the lead, 47-45, on a power move by Dixie post Austin Montgomery.
Trevor Hill was tasked with chasing Nelson or Watson all night.
“We were not closing out on them properly in the first half,” said Hill. “Coach told us to trust the help behind us and to take away the 3-point shot. It’s nice to have Marcus (Bradley) behind me. He is an animal.”
Even though the Seasiders would never lead again, Dixie State could not shake them. As late as 4:56 left to play, the lead was still only five points after Doohan McCleary’s 3-pointer, 74-69.
Dixie State then put together a 10-1 run. Five different Blazers scored during the run. Brandon Simister’s 15-foot jumper from the right side put DSU up 84-70 with 2:23 remaining. The Blazers finished their scoring at the free throw line, hitting four of their last six and maintaining the 14-point margin to the end.
“We played more aggressive in the second half,” said Judkins. “When Josh Fuller went down with injury early in the season, I challenged our posts to step up. They all have. Austin Montgomery has played better. Dub Price did not have a great shooting game tonight, but I always know that he is going to give me great defense and rebound the ball. And Marcus Bradley has dominated on both ends of the floor with his inside presence.”
Bradley had four dunks in the game and led the team with career highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds.
“This was my best game collegiately,” said Bradley. “I felt confident that I could do some damage offensively with my size.”
Joining Bradley in double figures were Hill (18), Montgomery (13) and Nielson (11). Hill also had eight rebounds and led the team with five assists and three blocked shots. Zac Hunter and Price pulled down nine and eight rebounds, respectively.
With the win, Dixie State moves to 12-2 in the PacWest. That ties them with Cal Baptist for second place, a half game back of Hawaii Pacific. Overall, the Trailblazers record sits at 15-5. The Seasiders fall to 3-10 in the PacWest and 5-14 overall.
The Trailblazers will host Chaminade on Saturday night. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Dixie State 67, BYU-Hawaii 61
Dixie State led most of the game, trailing only twice for a combined time of less than one minute to get its third win of the season.
Despite trailing for most of the game, including the entire fourth quarter, the Seasiders had their chances at the end. BYU-H’s Taryn Skahill’s post move in the paint pulled the Seasiders to within one, 60-59.
On DSU’s next possession, wing Matti Ventling took the pass from Lisa VanCampen and nailed a 3-pointer. The Trailblazers then got key free throws at the end from Ashlee Burge and Tramina Jordan to seal the victory.
Dixie State outshot the Seasiders 37-33 percent from the floor. They also outscored them 28-18 in the paint. Individually, Ventling led the Blazers with 15 points. She was joined in double figures by Burge (14) and Shelby Kassuba (10). Ventling had a double-double with 10 rebounds. VanCampen led the team with 11 rebounds. Jordan led the team with five assists.
The Trailblazers move to 3-11 in the PacWest and 3-17 overall. BYU-Hawaii moves to 8-10 overall and 5-7 in the PacWest. Dixie State will host Chaminade on Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m.
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