Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said it best, “Winning is a habit.” The Dixie State Trailblazers re-established that habit this past week with two wins, on back-to-back nights over non-Division I opponents Bethesda University (99-61, 99-67). And beat a third NAIA opponent University of St. Katherine (97-65). Saturday night they will look to continue those winning ways as they take on the visiting University of Denver Pioneers in Burns Arena. Dixie State is looking for its second win against a Division I opponent. The Trailblazers beat in-state foe Southern Utah on Nov. 12 in the Burns Arena for its only win against a D-I opponent this season.
What to Watch For From DSU
- Coach Jon “Juddy” Judkins is chasing history this week. He is just two wins away from becoming Utah’s All-Time winningest coach. When Judkins picks up three wins away, he hits the 300-mark at Dixie State.
- The Trailblazers are one of the fastest offenses in college basketball, fifteenth to be exact (teamrankings.com). At 77.1 possessions per game, Dixie State averages close to eight possessions more than Denver. Shooting 45% from the field and 32% from 3-point land, this fast-paced offense, when taking care of the ball, is lethal.
- The Achilles heel of the Trailblazers has been ball security. Averaging 15.1 turnovers per game, it has been obvious that turnovers have cost them a couple of games this season.
- The scoring options are almost limitless. And there is a leading scorer battle happening within the program that is heating up. Hunter Schofield is averaging 15.1 points per game, while Cameron Gooden is averaging 14.2. While these two have led the way, newcomer Dancell Leter, veteran Frank Staine and floor general Brock Gilbert have provided top-shelf support and leadership. Opposing defenses have struggled to contain the four-pronged scoring attack. Playing at Burns Arena, Denver is going to have the same issues.
Role Players and Bench Play
- Bench play was key to the Trailblazers’ only NCAA Division I win of the season against soon-to-be WAC rival Southern Utah. Freshmen Trevon Alfrey and Noah Gonsalves provided quality minutes off the bench in that win. And those quality minutes have continued throughout the 2021-22 season. Alfrey is shooting 54% from the floor, 66% from beyond the arc and leads the team in blocked shots. Gonsalves continues to find his legs as the season progresses, his stats don’t jump off the sheet but his impact is felt on both ends of the floor in his 16.8 minutes per game.
- Denver runs the majority of their offense through KJ Hunt. The junior guard has taken close to 25% of the field goal attempts for the Pioneers and shoots 44% from the floor. Brock Gilbert and Cameron Gooden will fare well in this matchup and look to keep Hunt from penetrating and getting to the free throw line.
- The Pioneers are 3-8 on the season. Denver has wins over IUPUI and Houston Baptist as well as a non-DI opponent. Fellow WAC foe Utah Valley beat the Pioneers in overtime on Nov. 27. The Pioneers average about 67 points per game but also give up over 70. Keep an eye on the 3-point shooting as Denver has actually shot better from deep that its opponents this season.
These two teams met up in the 2020-21 season at Hamilton Gymnasium in Denver, where Dixie State picked up its second win in the program’s Division I era. Leading all scorers was Cameron Gooden, who scored 23 points. The Trailblazers never trailed following the halftime break and snuck out a 73-70 victory.
With conference play looming its ugly head over both teams, expect this to be a dog fight. Much like last season’s matchup in Denver, this game should stay close. Dixie State has yet to show us that they can consistently be a good basketball team. If the Trailblazers can limit turnovers, use their speed, and continue to shoot well from the floor, we will see who they can and should be going into WAC play.
Betting Odds (Odds from Draftkings Sportsbook)
Dixie State -5.5, O/U 148