Despite holding a four-point lead with less than four minutes left in the game, the Dixie State Red Storm relinquished the lead and fell to the Azusa Pacific University Cougars by a final score of 72-65.
The Cougars came into the game sporting a 7-3 overall record and a 1-1 record in the Pacific West Conference. Dixie State University held an identical conference record but was just 4-4 overall on the young season.
APU jumped out to a quick 12-6 lead within the first four minutes of the contest behind some hot 3-point shooting from senior guard Bruce English and sophomore forwar, Corey Langerveld. The Red Storm countered with a 14-8 run of their own to tie the game up at 20 with eight minutes to go in the first half.
The Cougars continued to shoot well from behind the arc as they finished the first half shooting 41 percent from deep. They rode that hot shooting as well as tough defense to a 35-28 lead into halftime.
Junior forward Josh Fuller and senior guard Mason Sawer lead DSU at the half with 6 points apiece. Sawer also dished four assists during the opening twenty minutes. Junior Forward Joey Schreiber led the Cougars with 10 points.
Coming out of halftime, the Cougars extended their lead 40-31 before DSU went on a 10-0 run and took the lead for just the second time in the game. The Red Storm were led by Fuller, who scored six of the 10 points during the run.
Head coach Jon Judkins said he was happy with the player’s energy during the beginning of the second half of the game.
“I was happy with the energy we had to start the second half,” Judkins said. “Then we kind of laid back, hoping they would miss instead of making them miss.”
It was a back and forth battle over the next seven minutes until the Red Storm took their largest lead of the game on an emphatic dunk by sophomore guard Trevor Hill to take a 53-49 advantage. Dixie State could never extend its lead past four points as it held a 60-56 lead with less than four minutes left in the game.
The Cougars then connected on three 3-point baskets on their next four possessions to take a 65-62 advantage with just over two minutes to go. Azura Pacific never looked back from there as it went on to win 72-65.
“They hit some threes at the end of the game, and we couldn’t get anything going,” Judkins said. “Give Azusa credit—they are a good team.”
The Cougars shot 46 percent from the field and nearly 42 percent from behind the arc. Dixie State assisted on 15 of its 22-made field goals but shot a mere 38 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range.
When asked about the loss, coach Judkins said: “It’s tough, but I told my team that this is how we were last year. We went on a winning streak after the [holiday] break.”
Fuller led the Dixie State offense as he put in a career-high 25 points on 10-15 shooting from the field. Sawer recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.
Schreiber was the high scorer for APU with 18 points. Langerveld contributed 14 points to the effort, and English finished with 12 points to help the Cougars reach an 8-3 overall record.
Dixie State will take a break for the holidays and will resume their conference play Jan. 5 at home against Chaminade University of Honolulu.