An old JUCO rivalry is renewed this weekend in Orem, Utah. The Trailblazers of Dixie State head north on I-15 to take on their in-state foe the Utah Valley Wolverines. Dubbed “The Old Hammer Rivalry”, Dixie State will be looking to get their first potential series sweep against a foe that they’ve met in exhibition games as recent as 2018. This is the first time since 2003 that the Trailblazers and Wolverines meet as conference foes.
Last weekend saw Dixie split the series against Seattle U in St. George. Once again a series where Dixie was in control for one game and blown out the next. A trend Coach Jon Judkins is well aware of.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well … we had way too many turnovers. And, so in our minds we’re thinking it’s gotta be more of the mental aspect, with the back to back games …. our guys are tired and worn out.”
It’s an issue many WAC programs and other college programs playing back to back series have had to face. And it makes load management that much more difficult. This is especially true for Dixie State. The Trailblazers are on pace to have the least amount of game cancellations this year. To play a complete series, the Trailblazers are going to have to do a few things better against the Wolverines…
Keys to the Game
Control the Paint
UVU’s bread and butter is their paint presence. Evan Cole and Fardaws Aimaq have established themselves as one of the best forward tandems in the entire WAC. Dixie’s ability to control the paint has been mixed at best. And that’s been against ball teams like California Baptist and Seattle U that typically rely on one forward to get rebounds. UVU has two options.
It’ll be up to Hunter Schofield and Jarod Greene to at least contain the nation’s leading rebounder and ensure they limit second chance opportunities for UVU’s offense. If they can’t, it’s going to be a long series.
Spread the Floor
Tarleton shocked UVU two weeks ago on Saturday thanks to an efficient offense that sot 56% from behind the arc, hitting nine 3-pointers over the course of the game.
Consistently defending the perimeter is something the Wolverines have struggled with all season. And with players like Cameron Gooden who can slash and dish for shooters like Frank Staine and Jacob Nicolds, the Trailblazers have a great opportunity to create some favorable matchups and keep the Wolverines defense on their toes.
My Record: 4-2
I swept last week. No big deal. But heading into this series, particularly a rivalry series, and it’s tough. Dixie State could shock the world and sweep a UVU squad that at times has been inconsistent. Or they could drop the ball. For me, I feel the trends are too great to ignore, and Dixie will keep one game close and then struggle on Saturday. Look for UVU to sweep, but one game will be a tight one for the Wolverines to pull off.