HONOLULU – Woeful free-throw shooting and key offensive rebounds down the stretch by Hawaii Pacific doomed Dixie State in its quest for a share of the PacWest Conference Season Championship, losing to the Sharks 76-66.
Pulling to within 56-55 at the second media timeout of the second half, the home team outscored the Trailblazers 20-11 the remainder of the way. In that span, DSU missed 6 of 10 free throws and committed six turnovers.
In a battle for a top seed, neither team would disappoint in the first half. With seven ties and 13 lead changes, Hawaii Pacific came out on top with a late 3-pointer to take a 44-42 advantage into the locker room.
Dixie State shot 60 percent from the floor in the first and matched HPU in scoring from the floor. However, they only hit 4-11 free throws, where the scoring tipped in the Sharks favor as they hit all six of their free throws. Dixie State also held a 16-13 rebounding advantage.
Marcus Bradley led the Trailblazers with 14 points. Trevor Hill and Brandon Simister had 11 and 9, respectively.
In the second half, the Trailblazers held the lead briefly when Simister nailed a 3-pointer to go up 47-44 with 18:26 on the clock. The lead lasted only 19 seconds, though, as HPU matched it with a trey of its own. Dixie State would not lead again, but kept the Sharks in sight most of the game. Another Simister 3-pointer pulled the Blazers to within four, 66-62, with just over six minutes remaining.
Hawaii Pacific, conversely, was near perfect at the line, hitting 18 of 19 for the game and six straight down the stretch when the Blazers were trying to claw back to within striking distance.
Simister led the team with 19 points. Marcus Bradley (17) and Hill (15) also scored in double figures. Hill and Bradley led the team with seven rebounds apiece.
With the win, the Sharks move a half-game above Cal Baptist for first place with a 17-2 PacWest record and 25-2 overall. Barring a loss in its final game, HPU will likely claim the No. 1 seed in the PacWest tournament due to its better season record against the Trailblazers. The Sharks are 1-0 against DSU while Cal Baptist split with the Trailblazers. Dixie State falls to 15-4 and will be the third seed in the PacWest tournament. DSU falls to 18-7 overall.
The Blazers return from Hawaii and will have their final game against Holy Names on Saturday night. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Hawaii Pacific 70, Dixie State 56
The Trailblazers were roughed up in the first half in the final leg of their Hawaii trip. The Sharks held a 38-14 advantage at halftime and coasted the remainder of the way.
The Sharks led from start to finish and had a decided advantage on points in the paint (40-22) and fast-break points (10-2).
Individually for the Blazers, Tramina Jordan led the team with 18 points. Ali Franks and Gabrielle Cabanero joined her in double figures with 16 and 10, respectively.
HPU improves to 19-5 overall and 16-3 in the PacWest. The Blazers fall to 4-21 overall and 4-15 in conference play. The Blazers return home to host Holy Names on Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m.
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