POMONA, CALIF. – The Dixie State men’s basketball team rebounded from a season-opening loss to beat UC-San Diego 69-63 Saturday night. With the win, the Trailblazers avenged their loss to the Tritons last year in the NCAA Tournament.
“We like playing these guys,” Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “They play much of the same way we do. They set a lot of screens. They play tough defense. They rebound really well – kind of like playing your older brother. It was good to get the win against them tonight.”
Three straight 3-pointers in the second half helped DSU erase a seven-point deficit and the Blazers nailed 10 of 12 free throws in the last 69 seconds of the game to beat the Tritons, a team that knocked Dixie State out of the 2016 NCAA Division II national tournament.
Brandon Simister and Kyler Nielson each hit a 3-pointer to start the game and give the Blazers an 8-3 lead early. Austin Montgomery’s free throw at the 13:00 mark put DSU up 12-6. The Tritons clawed back and tied the game at 16-16 with just under five minutes left in the half. The lead swung back to six, but in the other direction when UCSD scored the next three baskets. A late basket from Nielson along with two Simister free throws pulled the Blazers to within three at the break 27-24.
At halftime, the Blazers were shooting at a 47.4 percent clip and holding UCSD to 33.3 field goal percentage. The Tritons got more shots up by forcing more turnovers (8-3) and getting more offensive rebounds (6-1).
Starting the second half, the Blazers kept close and actually tied the game at 32-32 on a Trevor Hill steal and fast break dunk. But they could not get the lead and again the Tritons edged ahead slowly. With less than 10 minutes remaining, UCSD had its largest lead of the second half at 46-39.
“They got some incredible bounces,” Judkins said. “There was a scramble for one loose ball where two to three players got a hand on it only for it to bounce to their guy waiting at the 3-point line.”
But with the magic of the 3-point shot, the Blazers retook the lead 90 seconds later 48-46. A Simister trey followed two from Brandon Miller to give DSU its first lead since 16-14 midway through the first half.
“We saw a couple of things with their zone defense,” Judkins said. “We made some adjustments at halftime and Brandon Miller got a couple of good looks from that.”
The teams then went back and forth over the next few minutes. The score was tied five separate times during that span, the last at 59-59 with 1:09 remaining. Then the Blazers did something they failed to do the night previous. They hit their free throws down the stretch. DSU scored its remaining points at the free-throw line, hitting 10 of 12 to put the game away.
“It was good to see them respond the way they did tonight at the end of the game,” Judkins said. “They not only hit their free throws, but they played smart. They made good decisions.”
As a team, Dixie State outshot the Tritons in every phase, including the charity stripe. The Blazers outrebounded UCSD 36-33 and cut down on their turnovers in the second half, ending up with only 11 for the game. Individually for the Blazers, Simister led the team with 18 pints. Hill and Nielson scored 12 and 10 points, respectively. Simister and Hill had four assists apiece. Hill also led the team with two steals. Quincy Mathews led the team with nine rebounds.
The Blazers will get Sunday off and return to the court late Monday afternoon with a 5 p.m game against Cal State-LA at the Eagles Nest in Los Angeles.
Women’s basketball (Monmouth, Ore.)
Western Oregon 81, Dixie State 70
The Wolves outscored DSU 48-36 in the second half and handed the Trailblazers a loss in their season-opener at WOU Arena.
The teams played even over the first few minutes. An early 3-pointer by Maile Richardson followed by a layup by Morgan Myers had the Trailblazers trailing 8-7 early. But then the Wolves went on a 15-3 run.
The Blazers knuckled down in the second and let their defense lead to some good shots at the offensive end. Six straight points, with two of the baskets coming from Kristi Baldwin got the deficit back to single digits.
Richardson’s second 3-pointer cut the Wolves’ lead to 25-19 with 8:51 on the clock. Moments later, Taylor Moeaki’s steal and fast break layup cut it to 25-21. Richards cut it to two on a well-executed inbounds play with 7:20 remaining.
Two 3-pointers from Matti Ventling and Ali Franks gave the Blazers their first lead at 29-26 with just over five minutes to go before halftime. The Wolves countered with seven straight points to go up 33-29. Ventling scored five consecutive points to end the half. Her 3-pointer from the corner off a Tramina Jordan assist gave DSU a 34-33 halftime lead.
At the half, Richardson led all scorers with 10 points and six rebounds. Martin had five assists and two steals. Morgan Myers, who saw only four minutes of playing time in the first half, had three rebounds and two assists.
The teams played pretty evenly most of the third quarter till Western Oregon pulled away slightly at the end to take a 54-49 lead into the final stanza. The Wolves opened the fourth with a 3-pointer to take an eight-point lead. Jordan kept DSU in the game early in the fourth with two buckets to pull DSU to 59-54.
Every time the Blazers got within four or five, WOU would answer. Franks hit a trey to pull DSU within 69-65 with just over two minutes remaining. Eventually the Blazers began to foul to preserve time, but the Wolves hit their free throws down the stretch. They hit a layup at the buzzer to get the lead to double digits for the first time in the second half 81-70.
For the game, the Blazers shot 38 percent from the floor and 53 percent from the line. The Wolves shot 39 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the line. Richardson led DSU with 12 points and nine rebounds. Also scoring in double figures were Ventling (11) and Franks (10). Baldwin and Myers pulled down eight and six rebounds, respectively. Mariah Martin led the team with nine assists and two steals.
The Blazers will face Saint Martins Sunday at noon Pacific Time.
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