Dixie State University’s winning streak has ended.
After starting the game cold from the field, the Trailblazers separated themselves from Dominican University of California and ran away with a 78-59 victory.
DUC jumped out to an early lead as DSU shot 4-20 from the field to begin the game. The Trailblazers trailed 23-20 before going on a 14-0 run to finish the half and entered intermission leading 34-23.
DSU controlled the defensive end of the floor in the second half. It forced the Penguins to commit 14 turnovers, which led to transition buckets for the Trailblazers.
“We knew that if we played better defense, we would win,” said redshirt senior forward Marcus Bradley, a business administration major from Anaheim, California. “We came out in the second half and did just that. That was our main focus.”
DSU shot over 55 percent from the field in the second half, which helped maintain a double-digit lead throughout the period and earn a convincing victory, 78-59.
The Trailblazers showed improvement from the free-throw line – an area they’ve struggled from all season. They shot 82 percent from the charity strip, which is nearly 20 points better than their season average.
“Getting to the free-throw line helped us a lot,” said junior forward Kyler Nielson, a criminal justice major from Cedar City. “That’s why we were able to pull away tonight. If we keep that up, it is going to be hard for teams to creep back into games.”
Junior guard Trevor Hill led all scorers with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and two steals. Junior guard Brandon Simister chipped in 12 points and six assists, while sophomore forward Quincy Mathews added 10 points.
“I thought [free throws] were the key to the game,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “Our offense kind of struggled, but we were getting fouled and making them. If we would have been missing those, our lead could have shrunk quickly.”
Following the lone home game, DSU headed back out on the road for a rematch against Point Loma Nazarene University. The Trailblazers and the Sea Lions squared off Dec. 19 and DSU eked out a 3-point victory in overtime.
PLNU would get revenge this time around as it handed DSU its second Pacific West Conference loss of the season, 68-64.
The Sea Lions opened up with the lead and would push that lead to 10 with six minutes left in the first half. DSU came storming back, however, and entered halftime with a lead, 38-36.
DSU increased the lead to begin the second half, but PLNU came storming back. The Sea Lions cut the lead to one before going on a 12-2 run and taking a 61-52 lead with just over six minutes remaining.
The Trailblazers would never recover as they fell to the Sea Lions, 68-64.
Hill once again led DSU with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Simister was the only other Trailblazer in double figures with 10.
After suffering the tough loss to PLNU, DSU locked horns with inter-conference rivals Concordia University-Irvine. The Eagles maintained a steady lead throughout the first half and entered halftime leading 34-28.
“If we would have played like we played tonight against [PLNU], we would have never lost to them,” Judkins said. “These guys played so hard tonight.”
Despite trailing by double figures with under 12 minutes to go, the Trailblazers fought back and stunned Concordia University Irvine with a 67-64 win.
The Trailblazers shot a mere 38 percent from the field in the winning effort, but managed to put in 30 points from the paint.
Free throws played a big part in DSU’s success down the stretch. 14 of their final 17 points came from the charity stripe. Judkins was pleased at his team’s poise down the stretch.
“We got stops and rebounds late,” Judkins said. “Every time we come here, it’s a war. I’m just happy with the way we played and competed tonight.”
Hill put in 16 points, grabbed six rebounds, and had three blocks and three assists. Junior forward Zac Hunter finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
DSU moves to 9-2 in conference play and will return home for a five-game home stand beginning Saturday against Azusa Pacific University. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. inside Burns Arena.