No. 22 Westminster's holds on to defeat Dickinson State after 1st-half explosion
Westminster College has one of the top defenses in NAIA men's basketball.
Nonetheless, it took the No. 22-ranked Griffins about 7 minutes to get their bearings in their first trip to Scott Gymnasium on Thursday night.
Once they did, there was little Dickinson State could do to stop them. Westminster outscored the Blue Hawks 26-6 in the final 13 minutes of the first half and built a 20-point lead by scoring the first eight points of the second half.
That wide berth played a huge role as DSU regrouped and pushed Westminster down the stretch before it claimed a 65-57 Frontier Conference victory one week after a 40-point win over the Blue Hawks on its home court in Salt Lake City.
"Talking to some of the other coaches in our league, they've made mention that this is a program (DSU) that you can beat them comfortably at their place and then you go up there, it's just going to be a fight where you're in a position to lose," Westminster head coach Adam Hiatt said. "It's easier said than done when you tell your guys that."
DSU broke out to a 14-6 lead 7 minutes into the game, prompting Hiatt to call a 30-second time out. Over the remaining 13 minutes of the first half and first 2:15 of the second half, Westminster outscored DSU 34-6.
Jake Orchard, who keyed the run by scoring nine of the first 11 points, and Tallon Robertson each finished with a 14 points to lead the Griffins (17-4, 5-3 Frontier).
"I made a couple subbing errors, I put the wrong combination in and they took advantage of our guards not getting back," DSU head coach Ty Orton said. "We didn't get back and they saw it."
Westminster shot 1 of 8 from the field in the first 8½ minutes of the first half and went 12 of 20 the remainder of the first half, turning DSU turnovers into easy buckets and outhustling the Blue Hawks defensively.
DSU's only points in the final 13 minutes before halftime came from 3-point range. Robbie Morey buried fadeaway with 7:10 remaining and James Hayden hit another with 56 seconds left to cut the Griffins' halftime lead to 32-20.
That turned out to be a sign of things to come.
The Blue Hawks (9-13, 2-5 Frontier) could have easily packed it in after the nightmarish 15-minute stretch. Instead, they rebounded.
Trailing 40-20, DSU hit four 3's over a 16-2 run, cutting Westminster's lead to 42-36 -- the closest it would get -- and capped the surge when Ty Ackelson dropped in a teardrop shot from the left block with 11:26 left, the final points of 11 consecutive.
"We've just got to try and get some consistency," said DSU senior John Hanstad. "That's our biggest problem. We'll have a couple minutes where we play well and a couple minutes where we just go away from everything. We've got to keep a consistent push and we'll be alright."
Ty Ackelson scored 12 points to lead DSU's balanced effort. Hanstad added nine points, six assists and four rebounds and Johnie Sanders and Brock Boos each had nine points.
DSU stuck with the hot hands in the second half, playing a guard-heavy rotation of Ackelson, Boos, Hanstad, Hayden, Morey and Sanders with 6-foot-6 junior Phillip Johnson Jr. in the middle.
Senior forward Jarek Hanson, the team's second-leading scorer at 11 points per game, was held scoreless for the first time this season after shooting 0 of 8 from the field. He played less than 2 minutes in the second half.
"We went with the guys that were making plays, that were going to play defense, that were down and were going to play physical, because that was a physical game," Orton said.
DSU shot 24 of 68 (35 percent) from the field and 8 of 31 (26 percent) from 3-point range.
Westminster built its lead back to 55-40 after a pair of Colton Moon 3-pointers. DSU clawed back within seven in the final 2 minutes, but it was too little, too late The Griffins were 25 of 55 (46 percent) from the field.
Westminster has been ranked as high as No. 7 in the NAIA Division I coaches poll and Orton said he still views them as a top 10 team.
"Their defense is phenomenal," Orton said. "Westminster could be the best team in the conference. There's no question, they're the best defensive team in the conference by far."
WESTMINSTER COLLEGE (17-4, 5-3 Frontier): Alex Drecksel 0-2 4-6 4, Jake Orchard 6-13 0-1 14, Tallon Robertson 6-11 2-2 14, Jordan Hayter 2-7 1-2 5, Blake Skidmore 3-8 3-4 9, Jordan Pryor 3-6 0-0 7, Colton Moon 2-3 0-0 6, Adam Egan 0-0 0-0 0, Travis Tucker 0-0 0-0 0, Adam Rainbird 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Bjornberg 2-2 0-0 4, Jordan Hamilton 1-3 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 10-15 65.
DICKINSON STATE (9-13, 2-5 Frontier): Johnie Sanders 4-13 0-0 9, Jarek Hansen 0-8 0-0 0, Robbie Morey 3-8 1-2 8, James Hayden 2-7 0-0 6, John Hanstad 4-9 0-0 9, Ty Ackelson 6-10 0-1 0-0 12, Anthony Hodges 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Sullivan 0-1 0-0 0, Brock Boos 3-7 0-0 9, Isiah Thomas 1-1 0-0 2, Phillip Johnson Jr. 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 24-68 1-2 57.
Halftime: WC 32-20. Total fouls: WC 11, DSU 16. Fouled out: Hanstad. 3-point goals: WC 5-14 (Orchard 2-3, Hayter 0-2, Skidmore 0-2, Pryor 1-4, Moon 2-3), DSU 8-31 (Sanders 1-4, Hansen 0-2, Morey 1-5, Hayden 2-5, Hanstad 1-6, Ackelson 0-1, Boos 3-7, Johnson 0-1). Rebounds: WC 35 (Drecksel 6), DSU 40 (Hanstad 6). Assists: WC 10 (four with 2), DSU 13 (Hanstad 4). Steals: WC 8 (Skidmore 2, Moon 2), DSU 3 (three with 1). Blocks: WC 0, DSU 1 (Johnson). Turnovers: WC 11 (Hayter 3), DSU 17 (Sanders 6).
DSU supporting Coaches vs. Cancer on Saturday
DSU basketball coaches will be participating in Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers awareness weekend during Saturday's Frontier Conference games against Montana Western. The women's game begins at 2 p.m. with the men's to follow at 4 p.m. at Scott Gym.
Coaches will wear sneakers with their suits on the sidelines and fans are encouraged to wear the color lavender to the games. Lavender is the official color of cancer awareness.
Coaches vs. Cancer is a joint effort of the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Follow Coaches vs. Cancer on Facebook and on Twitter at CoachesvCancer to share DSU's Suits and Sneakers events.
To donate to cancer awareness, text "COACH" to 20222 to make a donation of $5. Every time an individual texts from Jan. 21 through April 9, they'll be entered for a chance to win exclusive basketball experiences, such as watching top teams courtside at the 2013 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic or autographed gear.