ST. GEORGE — Hunter Schofield led all scorers with 29 points to lead Dixie State to a big 83-76 win over in-state rival Southern Utah in the Trailblazers’ home opener on Friday night inside the Burns Arena.
DSU (1-1) broke open an early back-and-forth battle with a 15-2 run, which turned a slim 26-25 advantage into a 41-27 lead after a Trevon Allfrey conventional three-point play with 3:03 remaining in the first half.
Schofield kick-started the rally with five-straight points, which was followed by a Noa Gonsalves 3-pointer and consecutive buckets from Cameron Gooden, as the Blazers outscored the Thunderbirds (1-1) 21-5 over the final 5:42 of the opening frame en route to a 47-30 halftime cushion.
SUU shot out of the gates to begin the second half. Bolstered by a pair of John Knight III dunks, the T-Birds opened the stanza with a 10-2 spurt to trim the Blazer lead to single digits at 49-40.
Schofield and Gooden combined to score DSU’s next eight points to help push the Blazer advantage back to 57-44, but back-to-back treys from Dre Marin and Harrison Butler cut the SUU deficit to 57-50 with just over 12 minutes to play.
Dixie State managed to again extend its lead to double digits, but the Blazers could not put SUU away. The T-Birds methodically chipped away at the deficit, and ultimately made it a one possession game at 69-66 following a Maizen Fausett tip-in with 3:47 to go. Isaiah Pope would answer on DSU’s next trip down with a clutch corner 3-pointer, which was followed by consecutive Schofield jumpers, as the Blazers went back up 10 at 76-66 with 2:05 left.
Dixie State then hit on 7-of-8 from the foul line late to hold off SUU and escape with the win. Schofield scored 19 of his 29 points in the first half as he hit on 8-of-12 from the floor in the period, and finished the night 12-of-19 shooting to go with three rebounds before fouling out with 1:12 to play. Meanwhile his 29-point effort was two off of his career-high of 31 set in a road win at Utah Valley last February.
In all, four Trailblazers scored in double figures, with Frank Staine scoring seven of his 11 points after halftime, and Gooden and Allfrey finished with 10 points apiece. Gooden also dished out a career-high nine assists, while his back court mate Brock Gilbert collected eight dimes, as DSU racked up 20 assists on its 31 made baskets on the night.
“It was a big win for us and it big that we finally got this thing going [games vs. SUU],” said DSU head coach Jon Judkins. “I learned a lot about my team tonight, where we do share the basketball, we’re pretty good. And when things go bad, we did a pretty good job of figuring out what we need to do to keep the lead and get the win.”
Dixie State shot 51.7% (31-of-60) from the floor, including a 57.6% clip (19-of-33) in the first half. The Trailblazers also shot 31.6% (6-of-19) from the perimeter and 71.4% (15-of-21) at the foul line.
Knight paced Southern Utah with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Marin went 5-of-8 from downtown on his way to 19 points. SUU shot 37.1% (23-of-62) for the game, 34.6% (9-of-26) from beyond the arc.
Dixie State had an announced attendance of 4,105, which was the ninth-largest crowd to attend a game in the Burns Arena in DSU’s NCAA era, and the largest home crowd since the program’s jump to NCAA Division I status.
“I loved the crowd tonight,” Judkins said. “When we were up at Gonzaga [last Tuesday night], we got there an hour and a half early, and [The Kennel] is packed and their students were going crazy, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we had fans like that?'”
“Tonight our fans showed up and they got after it, they were loud and it was great,” Judkins added. “That’s what we hope we get for every home game, it was a great college basketball atmosphere.”
Dixie State and SUU will face each other again next month, with the game in Cedar City scheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 22.
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