FRESNO, Calif. – Dating back to the exhibition season, all but one of Dixie State College’s losses have a similar theme – the loss of a lead in the final minutes. Saturday night was no different.
Fresno Pacific’s Malcolm Griffin knocked home a baseline floater to beat the buzzer and hand the Red Storm an 82-80 loss in league play.
Dixie State drops its third straight road game and first in Pacific West Conference action (5-3, 2-1) after holding a five-point lead with 3:17 left in the second half. The Sunbirds improved to 6-4 and 1-1 in the PacWest.
The Storm scored one point over the final minutes and was forced in to three turnovers.
“On the road, you have to be tougher,” Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins said. “You have to be a mean guy sometimes. We were expecting fouls to get called instead of going inside and forcing the action.”
Inside the paint is where Zach Robbins excelled against the Sunbirds. The reigning PWC Player of the Week set career-highs with 26 points (on 13-of-18 shooting) and 18 rebounds. Derek Owen added eight points and seven boards.
Dalton Groskreutz and McKay Massey each added 15 points.
FPU answered the call after Dixie State had a pair of five-point advantages early. A 15-5 spurt sparked by the play off the bench by Trevon Clayton and a massive dunk by Antonio Credit gave the Sunbirds a 28 lead.
Dixie State chipped away as the first half came to a close. FPU guard John Taylor hit a rainbow three with nine second before the break to snatch momentum, only to have Massey find space on the wing and drain a rebuttal triple to knot the halftime score at 45-45.
In a reversal from the first half, FPU took as much as a six-point lead early in the second half and kept control of the scoreboard until the Red Storm tied the game back up at 69-69 on a Steven Larson layup. The bucket, part of a 9-1 run, sparked the DSC offense.
Up five, FPU’s press forced DSC point guard Kimball Payne into three late turnovers. Over the final span, the Storm only took two field goal shots, both which were missed.
Griffin scored 16 of his team-leading 22 points in the second half, including three triples. He took the outlet pass after an Owen free-throw attempt to give DSC the lead fell off the rim and drove up the right sideline. With his defender beat, the guard/forward pulled up near the right elbow and floated home the game-winner.
Griffin led five Sunbird players in double figures. Credit notched a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Dixie State returns home for its final PWC contest of the calendar year next Saturday against the Sea Lions of Point Loma. Tip from the Burns Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.
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