The Dixie State University men’s basketball team has turned things around after a lackluster start to its season.
After beginning the season 0-3, DSU has now won three straight games including home wins against Sonoma State University Friday and Western Oregon University Saturday.
The Trailblazers started things off against SSU in its first home game of the regular season. Things started out fairly even midway through the first half, but near the end of the period, DSU began to pull away and went into halftime with an eight point lead.
DSU maintained the lead throughout the second half and would eventually extend it to a game-high 12 points midway through the second half. The Seawolves, however, clawed its way back into the game trimming the lead to two points with 13 seconds left in regulation.
DSU fought off the rally and held on for the victory at 64-62. Each team shot an identical 42 percent from the field but the Trailblazers forced 23 turnovers to aid in the winning cause.
“We figured out ways to win,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “That is something that good teams do and they’ve figured out how to do that.”
Sophomore guard Brandon Miller led the way for DSU with 19 points including 6-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Redshirt senior forward Josh Fuller added 13 while junior guard Trevor Hill notched 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The Trailblazers then squared off against WOU and started the game on fire.
They jumped out to an early 12-point lead which was led by Fuller who scored 10 points in the first five minutes of action. The Wolves battled back and tied the game at 35 with just under 90 seconds to go in the first half, but DSU would enter halftime leading by two points.
Fuller continued scoring in what would be a career night for him as he scored seven of DSU’s 12 points to open the second half. Fuller would go on to finish the night with 30 points, his highest total at DSU, and 13 rebounds.
“Our focus coming in was to be crisp on offense,” said Fuller, an accounting major from Rexburg, Idaho. “All night I was getting great passes. We were able to move the ball inside and out and because of that, our offense was flowing at a great rate.”
There was a scary moment for the Trailblazers midway through the second half. Miller drove the ball to the baseline and as he collected himself to shoot a layup, he collapsed with an apparent non-contact knee injury. As of now, there is no timetable on his possible return Judkins said.
DSU held an 11-point advantage with just over seven minutes to play. The Wolves would threaten to erase the lead, but the Trailblazers slammed the door to earn their third straight victory, 78-73.
DSU assisted on 20 of its 25 made field goals while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
“I’m very happy with that stat,” Judkins said. “I thought we shared the ball well. We had some good looks that we missed, but whenever I see 20 assists, I’m happy.”
The Trailblazers’ defense limited WOU to just 35.7 percent on field goal attempts, the lowest shooting total by an opponent this season.
“Getting a few stops in a row really gets us going,” said junior forward Zac Hunter, a finance major from American Fork. “It allows us to get out and run, and I think that’s when we are at our best. It wears on a team when we are able to do that.”
Hunter finished the game with 14 points followed by junior guard Brandon Simister who was two assists shy of a double-double, finishing with 13 points and eight assists.
With the win, DSU moves to 3-3 on the year. It will begin conference play Saturday when it hosts Concordia University-Irvine. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. inside Burns Arena.