ST. GEORGE — Cameron Gooden’s layup and free throw with 15.2 seconds to play helped cap a furious Dixie State second half rally as the Trailblazers escaped with a 77-76 home victory over Seattle University on Friday night inside the Burns Arena. The Trailblazers have now won two straight games to move to 6-8 overall, 2-5 in Western Athletic Conference play.
A win looked like it was not in the cards to begin the night as Dixie State misfired on its first 11 field goal attempts while the Redhawks guard line of Aaron Nettles and Darrion Trammell pushed their side to an early 12-4 lead. Jacob Nicolds finally broke the seal with a bucket at the 13:38 mark, which was followed by an Andre Mulibea 3-pointer that cut Dixie’s deficit to 12-9.
Nettles countered with consecutive treys to extend Seattle U’s lead to 18-9. However Dixie State got it going on the offensive end, and thanks to a quick 13-3 run, wound up taking its first lead of the night at 22-21 on a Hunter Schofield jumper with 7:20 go to go in the period.
Nicolds kick-started the run with a 3-pointer, while Jarod Greene scored six of the Trailblazers’ 13 points in the rally. The two sides then traded scores the rest of the frame before Joe Wall nailed a perimeter jumper at the halftime horn to stake the Redhawks to a 34-31 edge.
Seattle came out on fire in the second half, scoring 13 straight points as part of a 15-4 spurt to turn its halftime lead into a 49-35 cushion following an Emeka Udenyi conventional three-point play.
Trailing 59-47 with under 12 minutes to play, Dixie State’s offense and defense got clicking in unison. The Blazers scored 10 straight points, while the defense forced a pair of turnovers and five empty Redhawk possessions to trim the deficit to 59-57 midway through the period. Following two Isaiah Pope free throws, Mulibea converted an “and-one,” which was followed by a Frank Staine corner 3-pointer and Greene bucket.
Udenyi stopped the Dixie State run with a lay-in, but Pope countered with a conventional three-point play and Staine hit a leaner in the lane as the Blazers outscored Seattle, 15-2, over a four-minute span to wrestle the lead back at 62-61 with 8:36 left.
Both sides traded the lead back-and-forth over the next eight minutes until Kobe Williamson collected an offensive board and put back to stake the Redhawks to their final lead of the night, 73-72 with 33 seconds remaining.
On Dixie’s ensuing possession, Gooden took the ball from the right wing to the left elbow extended, then drove the lane and scooped in the go-ahead bucket. The junior guard then hit the free throw to give the Trailblazers the 75-73 lead.
Seattle had a chance to tie or take the lead on its next possession, but Trammell missed on two attempts, the second of which caromed to Nicolds with 3.3 seconds left. Nicolds, who was injured on the play, gave way to Staine at the line and the sophomore iced the game with a pair of free throws. Trammell banked in a 3-pointer at the horn to provide the final margin, but it was not enough as Dixie State came away with the win.
“It was an up-and-down crazy night, but in those last four minutes I saw that same fire that we had at (Dixie State’s win at California Baptist last Saturday),” Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins said. “We got some big stops and these are the games that grow from and get stronger and better by learning how to win games in the end like that. We are happy with the win.”
Greene led a season-high five Trailblazers in double figures with a season-high 16 points on 5-of-8 from the floor and a perfect 6-of-6 at the foul line. Nicolds just missed a double-double with 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds, while Staine added 11 points, and Schofield and Pope finished with 10 points apiece.
Dixie State rebounded from a 27.0% (10-of-37) first half with a 44.4% clip (12-of-27) to finish at 34.4 shooting for the game, which included going 5-of-19 (.263) from the perimeter. However the game may have been won at the foul line for the Trailblazers as the team, which came in ranked eighth in the WAC in free throw percentage (.642), went 28-of-31 (.903) from the charity stripe on the night – all of which were season highs.
Dixie State also outrebounded Seattle by a 47-44 margin, and turned the ball over just 10 times on the night.
“We didn’t shoot it all that great in the first half, but we rebounded really well that helped keep us in the game,” Judkins noted. “We were more aggressive in attacking the basket in the second half and we did a better job defensively.”
Seattle, which was without the WAC’s leading scorer in Riley Grigsby (18.7 ppg), got a game-high 30 points from Trammell, while Nettles hit 6-of-10 from 3-point land to finish with 20 points. The Redhawks connected on 38.0 percent (27-of-71) from the floor and went 11-of-34 (.324) from the perimeter.
The two teams will complete the two-game weekend conference set on Saturday night inside the Burns Arena at 7 p.m.
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