Despite a career-high 21 points from senior Kyler Nielson, Dixie State was dealt a rare Pacific West Conference home loss as the Trailblazers were edged by Point Loma, 74-72, on Saturday afternoon inside the Burns Arena.
DSU (6-6, 3-2 PacWest) enjoyed a 35-30 lead after the opening 20 minutes despite trailing for most of the first half. The Trailblazers scored the first five points of the game, only to see the Sea Lions (9-5, 3-2 PacWest) rattle off a 12-2 run to vault to a 12-7 advantage after a Preston Beverly lay-in nearly six minutes in.
Down 26-22 with 6:22 to go until intermission, Dixie State closed the stanza with a 13-4 run, which was kick-started by a Nielson 3-pointer, while Brandon Simister book-ended the rally with a trey of his own to give DSU the five-point halftime cushion.
Nielson struck again with another 3-pointer to open the second half to extend the Trailblazer lead to a game-high eight points, and DSU led 45-37 following a Trevor Hill bucket with 16:55 to play. However, PLNU countered with an 11-2 spurt to wrestle the lead back at 48-46 after a Beverly layup.
The two teams then traded the lead back and forth five times before DSU turned a 57-57 tie into a 68-61 advantage following a Wade Miller trey with 6:03 remaining.
Again Point Loma rallied, trimming the deficit to 70-69 after two Beverly free throws with 1:35 to go. Hill answered with a jumper on the next DSU possession, but the Sea Lions pulled even at 72-72 on their ensuing trip down on a Tanner Nelson 3-pointer with 56 seconds left.
After a Dixie State timeout, Simister drove to the left elbow for an open 14-footer, but Beverly managed to block the shot from behind and secure the rebound. Beverly then went to the line and hit the eventual game-winning free throws with 37 seconds to go.
Dixie State had two chances in the closing moments to tie or take the lead, but a Nielson 3-pointer bounded off the iron. And then after a two missed PLNU free throws, a DSU entry pass was deflected and stolen away with two seconds left, which sealed the Trailblazers fate.
Nielson connected on six of his 10 shots, including a career-high-tying four 3-pointers, and co-led DSU with five rebounds. Simister finished with 16 points with four treys, while Hill added eight points and a game-high seven assists. Hill, who was held without a field goal in the first half, became just the second player in DSU’s NCAA era to reach the 1,200 career-point plateau on his first field goal make, which came on an offensive board and putback at the 16:55 mark of the second frame. In all, all 11 Trailblazers who saw time scored and collected at least one rebound.
DSU shot 44.6 percent (25-of-56) from the floor and nailed a season-high nine 3-pointers (9-of-19; .474). However, Dixie State hit on just 56.5 percent (13-of-23) at the foul line, though the Trailblazers did outrebound the Sea Lions by a 38-29 count, including a 15-8 edge on the offensive glass.
Beverly led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench, while Nelson poured in 21 points. PLNU connected on an even 50 percent (25-of-50) of its shots and went 9-of-21 (.429) from beyond the arc.
Dixie State continues its four-game homestand with a date against PacWest newcomer Biola on Wednesday, Jan. 3, at 7:30 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.