Dixie State beats Point Loma, wins season conference title, No. 1 seed in PacWest

DSU vs. Point Loma Nazarene, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Darren Cole, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – There was much on the line for Dixie State’s final game of the season against Point Loma Nazarene University Saturday night – The PacWest season conference championship, the No. 1 seed in the PacWest Conference Tournament, a nine-game winning streak and positioning in the West Region for the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Red Storm laid claim to it all with a convincing win over the visiting Sea Lions, 76-60.

dsulogoPLNU leads the PacWest in defense and 3-point field goal percentage and will also likely be invited to the NCAA tournament.

“This is a good team we beat tonight,” said Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “We could see them again in the PacWest or NCAA tournament. Our defense kept their shooters in check.”

The Storm held the visitors to 12 points below their season average.

The Sea Lions were hoping to exact revenge for an earlier loss at home to DSU in early December. The loss was their first of the season and knocked them out of the national rankings after they opened the year with five wins.

“We knew they had something to play for,” said Dixie State wing Robbie Nielson. “They have good shooters up and down their lineup. We knew that we would have to step up our defense for the win.”

Both teams came out hot to start the game. DSU matched the Sea Lions perimeter shooting with their own. Just before the media timeout with under 12 minutes to play, the Sea Lions led 16-15 on a jumper by Sam Okhotin. That would be the last lead they’d enjoy for the entire game.

DeQuan Thompson takes part in the net-cutting ceremony for Dixie State, DSU vs. Point Loma Nazarene, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Darren Cole, St. George News
DeQuan Thompson takes part in the net-cutting ceremony for Dixie State, DSU vs. Point Loma Nazarene, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Darren Cole, St. George News

Zac Hunter put the Storm on top with a reverse layup in the paint. The move ignited a 20-9 run over the next 10 minutes. Sawyer’s 3-point shot from the top of the key put Dixie up 36-24 at the 2:53 mark.

“Initially they were fronting our posts and cheating off of our wings to prevent our entry passes,” said Judkins. “We adjusted and had our high posts hitting our wings instead of going directly to the low post. Our wings made them pay tonight.”

Dixie State closed the half by beating the Sea Lion press. DeQuan Thompson’s three-quarter’s-court pass to a wide-open Zach Robbins led to an emphatic dunk to close the first-half scoring 40-27.

The Storm shot 67 percent from the arc in the first half, including a perfect 3 for 3 from Sawyer. The Storm point guard also led all scorers with 14 first-half points.

In the second half, PLNU cut the lead to 11 on three separate occasions, but could not seem to get past that double-digit hump. After pulling to 46-35 on an Okhotin trey, the Sea Lions watched the game get out of reach as Dixie scored the next 13 points. With 13 minutes remaining, Robbins two free throws put Dixie up 59-35. All five of the Storm players on the floor scored during the run. A 12-foot jumper from PLNU’s Trevor Peterson stemmed the tide momentarily. But Dixie State then added a quick seven points. With just under 10 minutes to play, Hunter’s 15-foot jumper gave DSU its largest lead, 66-37.

The Sea Lions began pressing full court but found difficulty forcing Dixie turnovers. “We have seen their press before,” said Sawyer. “We have experienced ballhandlers. It really did not cause us any problems tonight.”

The play of the evening came with 4:30 to play. Robbins snagged a PLNU miss and threw a pass the length of the court down the left side to Nielson, who caught the pass and in one motion threw the ball cross court to a wide-open Mark Ogden, who rattled the rim with a thunder dunk.

“Zach and I made eye contact,” said Nielson. “His pass was perfect. As I went up for the catch (over two PLNU defenders) I saw Mark streaking down the court with eyes as wide as saucers. I knew what was coming if I could get the ball to him.” The dunk matched Dixie’s largest lead of the night, 76-47.

With three minutes left to play and the Storm up by 25 both teams cleared their benches. The Sea Lions would score the last 13 points with the game already decided to close to the final score 76-60.

Sawyer led all scorers with 18 points. He was joined by Thompson and Robbins with 13 apiece. Robbins added 19 rebounds for a double-double.

With the loss PLNU drops to 21-7. They are 13-7 and in sole possession of fifth place in the PacWest. They will play BYU-Hawaii in the quarterfinals of the PacWest Tournament on Thursday. The Red Storm will play the winner of that game on Friday.

Dixie State improves to 20-6 overall with the win and 17-3 in the PacWest. They share the regular season conference title with Azusa Pacific. DSU will get the top seed over the Cougars with the tiebreaker (better record against BYU-Hawaii).

On the other side of the bracket, No. 6-seed Hawaii Pacific will meet No. 3-seed Cal Baptist on Thursday. The winner will face Azusa Pacific, who gained the No. 2 seed, on Friday.

“Winning in this conference is not easy,” said Judkins. “The season title is quite an accomplishment. The top five teams will probably all be invited to the NCAA from the West Region.”

Game times have not been determined yet for the PacWest Tournament. Dixie State will play at either 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday night. The games are being played in Irvine, Calif., at the Concordia University Arena.

Stats: DSU 76, PLNU 60

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.