Fort Lewis College simply couldn’t make shots to beat Dixie State on Saturday night inside Whalen Gymnasium in Durango.
The Skyhawks went down big after the Trailblazers (14-8, 12-6 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) went on a 15-1 run in the first half to take a 25-13 lead with 7 minutes, 55 seconds to go in the first half. In a physical game, the Skyhawks didn’t have the legs or bodies coming off a hard-fought win against Westminster to compete with a team that has won 10 consecutive games to get within one game of second place in the conference standings.
“Dixie is very, very good. That’s a regional quality basketball team that’s well-coached,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack. “For us, I thought our effort was outstanding. I thought we played really hard the whole game. I’m really proud of our team to play as hard as they did.
“It’s hard to play when you don’t see the ball go in the basket, and we have not seen the ball go in the basket very much lately. When you shoot 36 percent, 17 from 3 and don’t make free throws, you can play as hard as you want, but you got to at some point put it in. It’s just hard to win a basketball game when you don’t make any shots.”
Marquel Beasley led FLC with 20 points and six rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting, including six dunks. Brenden Boatwright also shot a good percentage at 3-of-4 for eight points. The rest of the Skyhawks shot only 7-of-34. A.J. Sparks had seven assists for FLC.
The Skyhawks also were outrebounded 42-25. Matt Conway led Dixie State with 22 points and six rebounds.
FLC (11-13, 6-12 RMAC) made only 4-of-23 3-point attempts. Dixie State opened the game 6-of-10 shooting from 3 and finished 7-of-17 while it shot 46.4 percent from the floor.
A night earlier, Dixie State scored 96 points against Adams State. The Trailblazers have averaged 74.1 points per game this season, but FLC has held them to only 63 points in both matchups this year. The problem has been making shots against Dixie State, as FLC scored only 53 points in the previous matchup in Utah.
“Sparks played hurt tonight, and I thought he did a good job of keeping us in stuff,” Pietrack said. “But, obviously, he was extremely hobbled and not himself.
“We would love to play more guys, but right now we have seven guys capable of competing in a regional-type basketball game like tonight. We were tired, they were tired, too. They have more depth than us at the current moment. We’re working on getting that better for the future.”
The Skyhawks got within six points a few times in the second half and back to within 56-48 with six minutes to play after Will Wittman made a 3-pointer. The Skyhawks were getting defensive stops but would only make one more shot the rest of the game.
FLC will close out the disappointing season with a trip to Colorado Mesa University and Western Colorado University next Friday and Saturday, respectively, before it will return home to play Adams State in the season finale March 1.
“Three straight rivalry games,” Pietrack said. “We’re going to tough environments in Grand Junction and Gunnison and then get to finish here against Adams State. These three schools are our geographic rivals, and we get to play them at the end, and that’s special. We look forward to competing in our program whether we’re in first place or not in first place. Our guys will compete.”