Dixie State University men’s basketball finished the winter break on a five-game winning streak and entered 2017 with a conference championship in mind.
The Trailblazers began the break with a tough road loss in overtime to Azusa Pacific University. After leading by nine with only a few minutes to go in regulation, the Trailblazers’ lead slipped through their fingers, and they eventually fell to the Cougars, 103-104.
DSU managed to bounce back from the APU loss and ran off three straight victories against Notre Dame de Namur University, Point Loma Nazarene University and Fresno Pacific University. Each game proved to be challenging for the Trailblazers as they struggled to keep commanding leads, but they prevailed by beating NDNU 77-69, PLNU 83-80 in overtime and 76-73 against FPU.
“There is always room [to grow],” said sophomore center Austin Montgomery, an integrated studies major from Gainesville, Georgia. “[With hurt players out], we are all stepping up [our games], and it is paying off.”
After escaping the previous three games by the skin of its teeth, DSU secured a victory with an impressive defensive effort against the Academy of Art University.
The Trailblazers knew after the first five minutes of the game they had Thursday’s ballgame in San Francisco in the bag as they trounced AAU by the final score of 73-48. DSU managed to hold the Urban Knights to 25 percent from the field on their home court.
“Playing the appropriate defense can lead to some easy baskets on the offensive end,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “If you play good defense, your offense will flow a lot better, and so far it’s working.”
With an impressive 42 points scored in the paint, the Trailblazers managed to shoot 50 percent from the field along with 86 percent from the free-throw line, an area they have sought to improve on. DSU’s bench also chipped in 29 points.
“Everyone knows their role,” said redshirt senior forward Marcus Bradley, a business administration major from Anaheim, California. “[It’s] one group of guys with a common goal.”
The Trailblazers showed resilience once more as they claimed a come-from-behind victory Saturday afternoon in a rematch with NDNU.
After falling behind early to NDNU in the first half, DSU found itself having to play catch-up most of the game.
In what was a relatively equal start, the Argonauts caught fire early on their home floor with a 15-2 run mid-half. Though DSU chiseled away at the lead, NDNU managed to keep a double digit lead for the majority of the half and took a seven-point lead into the break, 39-32.
As the second half begun, the Trailblazers ran out of the gate with an 8-2 run. It wasn’t until seven minutes into the second half when DSU managed to take its first lead since the 14:53 mark in the first half.
The Argonauts, yet again, managed to take control of the game as they took the lead back from the Trailblazers just a few possessions later.
As the second half began to get into crunch time, the Trailblazers defense locked down and took the lead at the 2:30 mark and never relinquished it for the rest of the game.
Though free throws proved to still be an issue for DSU, a statistic the team sits dead last in throughout the PacWest Conference, enough were made as NDNU forced the Trailblazers to win the game from the foul line.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Trailblazers walked off the court victorious in a 77-72 shootout with the Argonauts. Thanks to 33 points off turnovers and 38 scored in the paint, DSU finished the winter break with a 4-1 record and now sit at 10-4 overall on the season.
“The formula is working right now,” Bradley said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
DSU will return to Burns Arena Wednesday to face Dominican University of California at 7:30 p.m.