Brandon Simister tied a career high with 24 points, including a school single-game record 18-of-18 from the foul line, to help lead Dixie State to a hard-fought 87-82 Pacific West Conference victory over Concordia-Irvine on Monday night inside the CU Arena.
The Trailblazers (6-5, 3-1 PacWest) trailed just once on the night as they turned a 46-44 halftime lead into a 57-50 advantage with 14:52 to play after a pair of Simister charity tosses.
Concordia-Irvine (9-4, 3-2 PacWest) clawed back to make it a 60-59 game with 11:44 to go, but Dixie State rattled off a 12-4 run to tie its biggest lead of the game at 72-63 with a little more than eight minutes remaining. Simister got the run started with a pair of free throws, while he and reserve forward Julien Ducree converted on two big conventional three-point play opportunities as the duo combined to score 10 of the 12 points in the rally.
Dixie State extended to an 84-73 lead after a Ducree lay-in with 2:57 left, but then the offense went cold as the Eagles forced four DSU turnovers and held the Trailblazers without a field goal for the remainder of the game.
Meanwhile, Concordia-Irvine scored nine-unanswered points to pull to within 84-82 with 44 seconds to play after a JT Roach 3-pointer. However, that was as close as CUI got as Dixie State survived one more miscue and Kyler Nielson hit 3-of-4 at the foul line in the closing seconds to put the game away.
Simister’s perfect night at the line broke the previous DSU single-game record for free throws made, which was 14 set by current DSU associate head coach Kasey Winters at Hawai’i-Hilo during the 2007-08 season, while he just missed tying the PacWest record (19). Meanwhile, Simister’s 18-straight free throws made in a game broke a DSU and PacWest record (previous PWC was 16 straight), while his 24 points tied a career high set nearly two years ago at Chaminade. The senior guard also dished out a game-high five assists and finished with two rebounds and steal.
“Brandon [Simister] played a great game and getting to the line and going 18-for-18 was huge,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “It was a good win. Win or lose we’re playing hard and that’s what I like. We’re playing together and sharing the ball. We moved the ball pretty good and that helped us get some easy baskets tonight and we made a lot of our foul shots.”
Not to be outdone, senior guard Trevor Hill poured in 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and in the process, moved into second place on DSU’s career scoring list with 1,198 points. Hill’s dunk nearly six minutes into the game vaulted him past former DSU great DeQuan Thompson (1,185, 2011-15) as the senior now trails only former stand-out Zach Robbins (1,470, 2009-15) on the program’s career points list.
Nielson also finished with a season-high 16 points, but none bigger than DSU’s final three points of the night. Ducree tallied seven points with career highs of six boards and three blocks in 16 minutes off the bench.
DSU shot a season-high 57.8 percent (26-of-45) from the floor, including a 61.1 percent (11-of-18) clip in the second half, and went 3-of-10 (.300) from the perimeter. DSU also went 32-of-41 (.780) at the line and outrebounded the Eagles by a 34-25 count.
The Trailblazers limited CUI to 42.1 percent shooting (24-of-57), which included a paltry 4-of-23 (.174) effort from beyond the arc. Roach led all scorers with 30 points.
Dixie State will enjoy a 12-day layoff during the Christmas holiday break before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 30, when the Trailblazers open a four-game PacWest homestand with a matchup vs. Point Loma in the Burns Arena starting at 3:30 p.m.
Steve Johnson is the Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations and Collegiate Licensing at Dixie State University. For more DSU Athletics news, please visit www.dixieathletics.com and follow Dixie State on Twitter at @DixieAthletics.