‘Whoever wants to play has to show it’: Dixie State men’s hoops tests depth in rout of Saint Katherine

Dixie State basketball's Brock Gilbert dribbles the ball in the team's win over Saint Katherine at Burns Arena, St. George, Utah, Dec. 5, 2020 | Photo by Stan Plewe, Dixie State Athletics, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Trailblazers used an all-hands-on-deck approach to run up the score on University of Saint Katherine on Saturday afternoon, winning 86-48.

Guard Frank Staine holds the ball in Dixie State basketball’s home opener and introduction to Division I against North Dakota at Burns Arena in St. George on Dec. 2, 2020 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

Dixie State got 14 players into the game, each contributing at least five minutes. Twelve players scored, all of which hit at least three points. Three freshman got a fair share of time, combining for 15 points in 29 minutes. Some other newcomers, including transfers, also got their first extended looks.

As the team gets closer to more pivotal competition, it’s allowing head coach Jon Judkins to get a better look at how to best utilize and structure his rotation, which he runs eight to nine players deep.

“We’re still trying to find that,” Judkins said. “We’re kind of putting a little test on them: Do they want to play or not? And see how they do in practice and game situations. It’s going to be whoever steps up. It’s open right now, so whoever wants to play has to show it.”

Dixie ran away with the first 10 points of the game and never looked back. By minute nine, Judkins started to give looks to his younger and less core-group, inserting freshman Andre Mulibea in for the first time. The 6-foot-6-inch guard led the freshman trio with 15 minutes played, logging 5 points and four defensive rebounds. It was the Tanzanian-born, Salt Lake City-raised freshman’s first action as a Trailblazer.

The point margin also gave Judkins flexibility to test Hunter Schofield, the school’s lone representative on the preseason Western Athletic Conference rosters. Schofield is dealing with a nagging injury, but said that he’s more in the phase of getting back up to game speed.

“I’m feeling pretty good, just trying to get back in shape,” Schofield said. “It’s just going to take some time to get used to being on the court and being able to do everything that I used to be able to do.”

Schofield, Jarod Greene and the other bigs got to practice their craft on a smaller team, leading to 51 rebounds, 35 in the defensive end. Greene tied with Jacob Nicolds to lead the team with nine boards, and it turned into 12 points for the former and 14 for the latter, also a game-high for Dixie.

All of Greene’s points came in the first half as Dixie established down low, playing “inside-out” as Judkins called it. Once Saint Katherine had to respect the key and play low, it opened up the guards to shoot from the perimeter. Dixie went 12-for-29 from the three-point line.

One player to take advantage was freshman Emad Elniel, who drained a 3-pointer from the right-side corner on his first touch in collegiate basketball.

Transfers like Brock Gilbert and Mikey Frazier also got significant playing time from a depth role. Guard Cameron Gooden, who came over from Kilgore College, had another impressive game, adding five assists to 7 points.

Saint Katherine trailed by 16 at halftime, with a comeback seemingly already out of reach. The NAIA club, originally scheduled to be Dixie’s first game on Nov. 28, turned out to be a good opportunity for the Trailblazers to work out some finer details without having to worry about the score.

Dixie State improves to 2-0 in Division I play, and will focus on semester finals and practice before playing at Denver on Dec. 12.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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