Hopes of finishing with a second-place Pacific West Conference finish for the Dixie State University were dashed during its road trip to Hawaii last weekend.
Going into the road trip, the Trailblazers needed to win all three contests to have a chance at a second-place tie. DSU handled the University of Hawaii-Hilo and Brigham Young University-Hawaii, but were defeated by the conference-leading Sharks from Hawaii Pacific University.
Coming into the weekend, DSU sat one game behind second place California Baptist University. The Trailblazers squared off against UHH Thursday and managed a convincing win over the Vulcans, 98-65.
“It’s tough to play here, especially on [Hilo’s] senior night,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “I thought they had a lot of energy early, but we matched it and I was really happy with our effort tonight.”
Six Trailblazers finished scoring in double figures led by junior forward Kyler Nielson, who didn’t miss a single shot throughout the game. He shot a perfect 6-6 from the field including 4-4 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the free-throw line. Nielson finished with 18 points and two assists.
DSU maintained a double-digit lead for most of the first half before entering intermission with a 10-point lead.
The Trailblazers wasted no time in the second half as they came out firing, extending their lead to 21 in the first four and a half minutes. DSU led by as many as 35 before finishing two points shy of the century mark in the win, 98-65.
Sophomore forward Quincy Mathews finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Redshirt-senior forward Marcus Bradley finished with 16 points and three blocks in the win.
“This was a good win,” Judkins said. “We challenged our players coming in that this is a three-game tournament, we won the first one and now we move on to the second round at BYU-H.”
Following the win, DSU entered Cannon Activities Center to take on BYU-H for the final time. Three years ago, BYU-H announced that this would be the school’s final year participating in any NCAA athletics programs.
Bradley led all scorers with 19 points while also adding four rebounds and three assists. Bradley torched the Seasiders in the previous matchup between the teams Feb. 2, a game where Bradley scored a season high of 23 points.
DSU never trailed in the game and used a hot start to take a 9-point lead into halftime. The Seasiders fired back, however, and cut the lead to three with 30 seconds left. DSU withstood the blow and finished on top, 80-75.
“It was a good win, we’re happy with it,” Judkins said. “We’re done playing [BYU-H] and it’s sad to see the rivalry go because it’s always a fun game [in Laie] and at our place, but it’s nice to win the last time playing them.”
With the win, Judkins notched his 200th career National Collegiate Athletic Association win.
Nielson, junior guard Brandon Simister, and junior forward Zac Hunter each put in 12 points. Junior guard Trevor Hill was a rebound shy of a double-double, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Sitting at a 15-3 record, the Trailblazers squared off against HPU with the chance at taking down the conference leader and pulling into a tie for second place. The Sharks maintained their place atop the conference standings, however, with a 77-66 win.
It was a back-and-forth first half with DSU reaching a lead of five points on several occasions. A late run gave HPU the advantage going into halftime, 44-42.
The Trailblazers opened up with a 5-0 run to begin the second half to take a 47-42 lead. This would be the last lead DSU would have throughout the game.
The Sharks used an 8-1 lead later in the half to take an 8-point lead. DSU would cut the lead down to four with six minutes to go, but could not complete the comeback and took its fourth conference loss of the season, 77-66.
Sitting in third place in the PacWest with a record of 15-4, DSU would need two things to happen in order to enter a tie for second place: CBU lose at least one of its final two games and the Trailblazers need to win in their season finale. DSU will take on Holy Names University Saturday at 7:30 p.m. inside Burns Arena.