An exciting guard matchup awaits this weekend in the Burns Arena. Riley Grigsby and the Seattle U Redhawks take a trip to St. George to take on Cameron Gooden and the Dixie State Trailblazers. This will be Seattle U’s first games since their overtime loss against Utah Valley on Jan. 15.
Both teams come into this game seeking momentum. The Trailblazers are coming off their first-ever conference win in the WAC defeating California Baptist Saturday. And Dixie State is looking to establish a win streak in WAC play. The Redhawks, meanwhile, look to get their footing after a three-week pause due to Covid cases. Seattle hopes to get their resumption of play started on a good note.
Here are some keys to the game for each school.
Create Good Opportunities
Dixie State really kept the Lancers on their feet defensively in Saturday’s win. Cameron Gooden in particular elevated his game to dish out 6 assists along with his 22 point performance in that match. Seattle U has had weeks to scheme for Dixie State, and so the Trailblazers need to continue to create open looks for each other if they’re going to create a winning streak, especially against a Seattle U team that typically comes out very strong defensively.
Protect the Ball
Many might be surprised to learn that in Dixie’s win over the Lancers, they were out-rebounded 46 to 29. Massive disadvantage. But, how did they overcome this? Two words: Ball security. The Lancers turned the ball over 23 times compared to Dixie’s 11. For a team that can be tough defensively like Seattle, the last thing you want to do is gift wrap them opportunities with turnovers. They tend to feast on them like Valentine’s Day candy. If Dixie State can limit the turnovers and be efficient on offense, they should be able to get the jump on a Seattle ball club that will be a little rusty.
Seems simple, right? Why is this so crucial? Well, when it’s your first game back in 20 days, mistakes are likely to happen. The Redhawks need to limit mistakes against a Dixie team that can make you pay if you create too many turnovers. The Redhawks are going to be looking at this series as a game to get back into prime form, especially necessary when next week they host New Mexico State. Dixie will be a good opportunity to focus in on the details and get back as much composure and form as possible. Team leader Riley Grigsby has to have a a pair of big games this weekend.
Win the Battle Inside
When Seattle narrowly fell to UVU in overtime, they did most things right. Riley Grigsby and Co. shot the ball well. And Grigsby and the Redhawks were tenacious on the perimeter, forcing turnovers, and shooting well from behind the arc. But, the problems came inside the paint. The Redhawks were out-rebounded 45-33. And while creating turnovers is a great way to negate that issue, it only works if you can finish those opportunities. Seattle struggled to do that, as well.
Despite shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point land against the Wolverines, Seattle was unable get much going in the paint against Evan Cole and Fardaws Aimaq, and only shot 34 percent overall from the field. Going up against Dixie State’s Hunter Schofield and Jarod Greene, the Redhawks are going to need Emeka Udenyi and others step up and control the paint, especially for a Seattle squad that often likes to run 3-4 guards at a time.
My Record So Far: 2-2
I’m looking at a nice 50 percent clip with my win predictions so far. And a series like this make me worried about that because really anything could happen here. Dixie State comes in with more momentum and home-court advantage. But, this is a Seattle team that took on a ton of Pac-12 opponents before conference play and have seen much tougher competition.
I tend to get caught up in momentum and particular stats when I predict. But, sometimes I just have to remember every game is a new one, especially in these back-to-back series. For me, while I do think Seattle is going to be quite rusty and make a lot of mistakes Friday, I wouldn’t be surprised if they can bounce back Saturday once the jitters are out. I’ll predict a series split here.