Dixie State University men’s basketball prevented deja vu from happening the second go-around as the Trailblazers returned the favor by beating the Cougars, 67-62.
After having the lead late in the game and then losing to Azusa Pacific University in overtime back in December, DSU sought revenge after that one-point loss. Nearly 3,500 people filled Burns Arena on what was a cold evening in St. George with intent to help the Trailblazers in their quest for payback.
“Whenever you play a great program, you really want to beat them,” said junior guard Brandon Simister, a biology major from St. George. “[With] the way we lost last time, I would say we circled this one [and] really wanted to get this one back.”
With center Austin Montgomery being out nearly all week due to illness, head coach Jon Judkins shook up the starting line-up Saturday night by inserting redshirt senior Marcus Bradley.
“[With me] starting, I knew I had to come out with a lot of energy; if I could bring the energy, good things would happen,” said Bradley, a business administration major from Anaheim, California.
Bradley managed to shoot 3-7 from the field with six points and three rebounds in the first half, supplying his team with needed energy.
“You could tell [Bradley] was a little pumped up, a little too much juice in him at first [as he] tried too much [to force things],” Judkins said. “Then, I thought he relaxed and let it come to him [as] he did some good things.”
The first half was a chess match as each team methodically transitioned back and forth from defense to offense, never really gaining too much of a lead.
Simister had the hot hand as he found the bottom of the net three times from downtown. The Trailblazers managed to take a one-point lead into the break, 31-30.
“It was about time [as] I feel like the last two games I didn’t shoot the ball real well,” Simister said. “Coach told me to make sure I shoot it when I am open.”
The second half of the game seemed to follow a different story than the first. After turning the ball over nine times in the first half, the Trailblazers played a more contained second half by only turning the ball over three times.
After regaining their composure following the sloppy first half, the Trailblazers began playing inside out as they sought to work the ball into the post and back out if it wasn’t open. Baskets in the paint started to fall, and the Blazers earned their points at the foul line.
“The refs let us play both ways,” Judkins said. “I thought there was a lot of fouls both ways, but again, I like that.”
DSU managed to stretch its lead to eight a couple times in the second half, but the Cougars were not going to go down without a fight. APU fought back by cutting the lead to two with 1:29 to go in the game.
DSU held on for the victory after key baskets from Bradley and junior forward Zac Hunter.
“[In close games], we are comfortable in that situation, whereas other teams probably overthink or force stuff up,” Bradley said.
The Trailblazers continue their long home stand as they play the University of Hawaii-Hilo Saturday at 7:30 p.m.