Jags open with victory

Daniel Dixon's nickname "Flea" comes from his football playing days when he was 7.

 

That moniker still applied Saturday night as he frustrated Benedict with his pesky defense and instant offense in the fifth-ranked Jaguars' 71-62 season-opening victory in front of 1,650 fans at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

Dixon, Augusta State's 5-foot-9 junior guard, came off the bench for a game-high 18 points with four 3-pointers. He added seven assists, four steals and countless hustle plays.

"We were down by a lot," Augusta State center Garret Siler said, "and we jumped on (Dixon's) back a little bit."

The Jaguars returned home for their first official game since playing in last season's Division II national championship. Before the game, the team received their national finalist rings. Also, South Atlantic Regional champion and national finalist banners were unveiled.

Augusta State did not schedule an easy first game. Benedict is the defending Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament champions. The Tigers were 28-5 last season, advancing to the South Region title game.

Against Augusta State, Benedict won the rebounding battle, 40-31. Michael Holmes and Bennis Lewis each scored 15 for the Tigers, who led for most of the game. But the Jaguars closed with a 16-4 run, holding Benedict without a field goal the final four minutes.

"They outplayed us for 25 minutes," said Augusta State coach Dip Metress, who improved to 44-8 at home. "They're as good as any team we'll play all season."

The Jaguars trailed by 11 late in the first half and also trailed by six late in the game. Both times, Dixon sparked a rally. He scored 11 points in the final two minutes before halftime. His buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Augusta State a three-point advantage at intermission.

Dixon's biggest effort came late in the second half with the Jaguars down 53-47. In the lane, he blocked James Walker's layup attempt. On the ensuing possession, Dixon fed Siler for a dunk.

After Ben Madgen's putback, Dixon tied the game on his steal and fast-break layup with 4:32 remaining.

Later, Dixon drained a 3-pointer from the left wing. Augusta State led 61-58 and never looked back.

"It's not me. It's the team," Dixon said. "We've been in situations like that before."

The Jaguars got consecutive baskets from Madgen, Siler and Greg Hire in the final 2:25 to fend off the Tigers.

Benedict smothered Siler, Augusta State's 7-foot center, with as many as four defenders at times. He finished the night with 11 points on just five shots. Siler added nine rebounds and a block.

"I've got to get used to that," Siler said. "They had to play good defense on me."

Madgen shot just 1-for-6 from the perimeter but finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Fred Brathwaite also struggled from the floor (4-for-11), but he tacked on 11 points with five boards.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

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