Dixie State won its 10th-straight game and maintained at least a one-game lead in the Pacific West Conference standings with a hard-fought 71-65 victory at Hawai’i Pacific on Saturday afternoon at Moanalua High School. The win moved the Trailblazers to 16-6 overall and 13-2 in PacWest play.
Dixie State opened up an early 22-12 lead on the strength of a 15-4 run, including nine-straight points that erased an 8-7 Shark advantage. Brandon Simister nailed three jumpers in the rally, including a big 3-pointer, as the Trailblazers hit seven of their eight shots from the floor during that stretch.
HPU stayed within striking distance thanks to the hot hand of Jonathan Janssen, who poured in 10 of his 14 first-half points after the DSU run to help the Sharks trim the deficit to 32-29 with less than a minute to play. However, DSU took a 34-29 cushion into the locker room after Trevor Hill hit two free throws just before the halftime buzzer.
The Trailblazers quickly pushed their lead back to double digits to begin the second half as Hill and Zac Hunter converted on a pair of conventional three-point plays on consecutive possessions to extend to a 42-32 advantage. Then, after the Sharks cut that lead to 44-37, Dixie State rattled off a 14-7 spurt, aided by two more Simister 3-pointers, en route to its biggest lead of the game at 58-44 with 10:31 to play.
Dixie State then went ice cold offensively as the Trailblazers went more than six minutes without a field goal and missed on four of six free throws, which allowed the Sharks to pull to within seven at 60-53 at the 5:53 mark.
Julien Ducree finally broke the drought with a jumper with 3:38 to go. Ducree then added a thunderous dunk late in the shot clock on a Simister feed with less than two minutes to play, while DSU went 5-of-6 from the charity stripe to extend back to a double-digit lead at 69-58 with 44 seconds left. Dixie State held on from there to clinch the win.
Simister finished with a game-high 21 points on a blistering 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-6 from the perimeter, along with four assists and two rebounds. The senior guard (1,020 points) also became just the seventh player in Dixie State’s NCAA era to reach the 1,000-point plateau, doing so on a free throw early in the first half.
In all, three Trailblazers scored in double figures as Hill tallied 15 points with three assists and Hunter chipped in 11 points to go along with six rebounds. Meanwhile, Ducree just missed his first double-double of the year as the junior finished with nine points and a career-high-tying eight boards.
DSU shot 45.1 percent (23-of-51) from the floor, which included a season-high .556 (5-of-9) from beyond the arc, but only hit on 57.1 percent (20-of-35) from the foul line. Dixie State’s defense limited HPU to a 32.2 percent shooting night (19-of-59) and 28.6 percent (8-of-28) from the perimeter, though the Sharks did outrebound the Trailblazers by a 40-36 margin.
Janssen led HPU with 19 points, while DSU held the PacWest’s leading scorer Niksha Federico (21.8 ppg) in check for most of the game, though he did finish with 16 points (3-of-15 shooting). Half of those points came at the line (8-of-8).
Dixie State returns home for its final homestand of the 2017-18 season, which begins with a matchup against Hawai'i Hilo in the Burns Arena on Saturday, Feb. 10, 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.