ST. GEORGE — On Friday night at the Burns Arena, the Dixie State men’s and women’s basketball teams took on University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. The women’s team struggled early, only scoring 14 points in the first half, eventually losing 67-40. The No. 13/5-ranked men’s team did the opposite, jumping out on UCCS with an 18-3 run, but let the lead slip in the second half. They still got the double digit win, 75-61.
Dixie State men’s basketball
With Colorado Springs in town, the Trailblazers played great in the first half. The second half was a different story though, as UCCS cut the lead down to three at one point, but DSU held on to get the win 75-61.
“The way we started was great,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “I thought we were focused, our defense was good and it caused some problems for them. Then we got a little comfortable. They went to a zone and our guys got a little shell-shocked. I think our guys got a little tight when they went to that zone. That’s something we’ve got to get better with.”
The Trailblazers came out with energy early and jumped out to a 18-3 lead after a 12-0 run to start the game. They were in control the entire first half, going to the locker room up 18. It looked like the game was going to be a blowout.
“Overall, I think every scouting report, every time we prepare for a game, we always focus on the first four minutes,” Dixie State forward Frank Staine said of the early lead. “Every media timeout, let’s win that four minutes. We feel like if we jump out first, they might not have a chance to recover.”
That changed as UCCS flipped on the switch to start the second half. They cut the lead to three with under six minutes left in the game and the momentum completely shifted. A big factor in that lead change was the defensive play of UCCS. They came out in a matchup zone, which gave the Trailblazers problems.
The ironic thing is, the Trailblazers run a similar zone offense of their own. They ran that zone in the first half to get the big lead, so as a team they play against that zone in practice almost everyday.
“We run the same exact thing,” Staine said. “We came in at halftime and were like, ‘bro, they’re running the same thing on us.’ We fixed it though. It was just like practice.”
When asked about the zone struggles, Judkins joked about his teams success in practice.
“When we do our defensive drills, our offense is on fire and I’m trying to work on defense,” Judkins said. “Then we switch it over and work on our zone offense and our zone defense is good.”
The Trailblazers were outscored by four in the second half, but thanks to a late run they were able to get the double-digit victory.
One thing that stood out from the win was the DSU bench’s energy in the first half. Early in the game after a made three-pointer, a couple of Trailblazers jumped off the bench and did a football-esque celebration. When asked about it, guard Jack Pagenkopf said they practice it almost everyday.
Even without the celebration, Staine said that the bench energy plays a hug part in their success on the floor.
“It’s just the best when you are successful and your teammates are more happy for you than yourself,” Staine said. “We preach that all the time, no one of us could just do it by ourselves. If it’s hyped on the bench then it’s hyped on the court.”
Three Dixie State players finished the game in double figures. Staine led the charge with 20 points, Pagenkopf was close behind with 15 points and 8 assists, then big man Hunter Schofield contributed 12 points and 7 rebounds.
After beating a good UCCS team, the Trailblazers have another challenge on Saturday with Colorado School of Mines coming to town. They won the RMAC regular season title last year and are in a five-way tie for second place in the conference standings.
“I’m excited for us to prove to everybody that this is not a fluke,” Staine said of the game against Mine. “I think when we won our first 8, 9 or 10 games everybody was like, ‘they’re not playing anybody,’ so I feel like it’s a good opportunity for us.”
Judkins also added that the Orediggers lost to Westminster on Friday and will be looking for one win on their road trip.
“They’re going to be hungry, no question about it,” Judkins said.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night at Burns Arena.
Dixie State women’s basketball
The Dixie State women’s basketball team had a tough matchup against UCCS on Friday night. Their offensive output was low in the first half and UCCS’s ability to make shots added to the damage. The Trailblazers lost the game 67-40.
“His team played a lot harder than my team,” head coach JD Gustin said. “They came out and they were ready to go, and played their best game of the year like they needed to. My team was flat and lethargic and didn’t really act like they wanted to be there. It doesn’t matter about offensive game plan or defensive game plan if you can’t play with energy, enthusiasm and effort.”
The first half was tough for DSU, as they struggled to find a rhythm. UCCS shot 16-33 from the field and knocked down seven of their 11 three point attempts. The Trailblazers also had 13 turnovers in the first half.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Gustin said of UCCS’s ability to make shots. “Good for them, it happens, it’s a part of the game.”
The second half saw a different DSU team. They outscored UCCS 19-13 in the third quarter and played with much more energy.
UCCS played a great game, but Colorado School of Mines is an even better team in terms of the conference standings. The Trailblazers will have their hands full on Saturday night.
“Our deal right now is how we’re going to respond tomorrow, how we’re going to bounce back,” Gustin said. “We can’t wait to play again tomorrow. They’re good and all that stuff but in this league they’re all the same. The league is wide open.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday night at Burns Arena.
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