DSU loses first game of NCAA tournament

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An upset-minded Dixie State University men’s basketball team ran into a red-hot University of California San Diego March 10 and lost 94-68.

The Trailblazers secured the final spot in its region to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Division II tournament. Being the No. 8 seed in the bracket meant a matchup with the No. 1 seeded Tritons.

Although DSU shot 50 percent from the field and committed only seven turnovers, UCSD cemented the victory by connecting on 17 3-pointers, which was by far the most the Trailblazers have given up this year.

“We have to give credit to [UCSD],” head coach Jon Judkins said. “That was the best we have ever seen them play. We feel like we played well, but they just played even better.”

DSU scored the first basket of the game, a jumper by senior forward Marcus Bradley. That was the only lead for the Trailblazers.

The Tritons sprinted out of the gates and raced to a 23-12 lead midway through the first half. A 3-point play by redshirt sophomore forward Dub Price got the Trailblazers within eight points with under 10 minutes to play.

An 11-4 Triton run stifled DSU just before the half, and DSU entered the locker room down 44-30.

UCSD picked up where it left off in the second half, outscoring the Trailblazers 50-38.

“We kept scoring twos and they kept hitting 3-pointers,” said junior guard Trevor Hill, a business administration major from Sandy. “When you trade twos for threes the scoreboard won’t look good. They could not miss, and our rotations were just a little slow.”

The Tritons outscored the Trailblazers by 18 points from the 3-point line in the second half alone. With the loss, DSU’s season is over.

“Last year, this team missed the tournament so this year, we were happy we could get back here,” said Bradley, a business administration major from Anaheim, California. “We are not going to let this loss define our season. We are proud of all that we accomplished this year, but we hope next year’s team will go even further.”

This was the final collegiate game for Bradley as well as for senior forward Josh Fuller, who did not play due to injury.

“We loved our seniors and the leadership they brought,” Hill said. “This year had some adversity and injuries, but I am proud of how we responded and battled all year.”

DSU will return 10 players next season from its current roster. Barring another injury-plagued season, Judkins and the coaching staff said they feel very optimistic about next year’s team and the talent that is returning.

“I am proud of our guys and what we accomplished this year,” Judkins said. “We still have a lot to build on, and we are excited for next season.”

The Trailblazers finished the season with a 19-9 overall record.