Dixie State University (13-14, 6-8 in WAC) had its second upset in a week after knocking out in-state rival Utah Valley University (17-9, 8-6 in WAC) 80-75 in overtime on Saturday night, scoring seven points in the final 28 seconds to stun Wolverines and force overtime.
With 5:45 left in the second half, a jump shot from Isaiah Pope put the Trailblazers up 62-58.
Then the once-hot Dixie State offense turned icy.
Blaize Nield hit a pair of free throws and a lob from Fardaws Aimaq’s Tim Fuller tied the game at 62.
Asa McCord scored his only basket of the game – a corner three – with 3:38 left to give Utah Valley a 65-62 lead. Aimaq then hit a 19-footer and Justin Harmon hit a pair of free throws with 37 seconds left to cap an 11-0 run that chewed 4:46 down.
Dixie State missed four free throws during the run.
“The hardest thing is we had some foul shots and missed two one-on-ones,” Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins said. “And then Hunter missed two in a row…so we have to do a better job of making them. But they moved on to the next game and didn’t worry about it.”
Danell Leter finally broke the cold stretch with a three to cut the lead to 69-65 with 28 seconds left.
Dixie State fouled Justin Harmon, who missed the start of a 1+1. Hunter Schofield was then left wide open underneath to cut the lead to 69-67.
Connor Harding then split a pair with :11 remaining, opening the door for one last breath from the Trailblazers.
Down three, Dixie State opted to get a quick two, and Cameron Gooden converted one-and-one with 6.2 seconds left to tie the game at 70.
Here’s Cam Gooden’s tough layup to tie the game against UVU. Gooden scored 14 of his 14 points in the second half/overtime. https://t.co/F9HV2Dlgzk
— Sean Ellertson (@SeanEllertson) February 20, 2022
The late comeback was reminiscent of Dixie’s comeback against Cal Baptist on Jan. 12.
Dixie scored 11 points in the 1:12 final to upset the Lancers 79-76.
“Just to never give up. Either way, we’re not out of the game,” Schofield said. “I think we did pretty much the same thing against Cal Baptist at home, so we’ve been there before and we knew we could still get back in the game. We just had to keep fighting.”
Gooden had just two points in the first half, but scored 14 of 16 in the second half and overtime.
“Just be more aggressive,” Gooden said of his state of mind heading into the second half. “My coaches and teammates want me to be aggressive in my last games, even though I haven’t shot very well. My coaches know what I can do and they trust me with the ball in my hands.”
“Cam tonight, I thought I played like we know Cam can play,” Judkins said.
Gooden’s only bucket in the first half came on a loud poster slam to give Dixie their first lead at 29-27 after falling 8-0 into the opener 2:08.
“The dunk was unbelievable,” said the 5’11” Gooden. “It felt like 30 points right there. It was exciting. I don’t have too many chances to dunk so when I have one I have to at least try it.”
Here is Gooden’s slam: https://t.co/XTKLZHd3Jk
— Sean Ellertson (@SeanEllertson) February 20, 2022
Harding had a blocked three at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Harding converted two foul shots on the line to start overtime before Gooden responded with another and a conversion to give Dixie State a 73-72 lead.
Aimaq then split a pair from the line, and Frank Stain answered with his own three. As Saine connected from deep, Schofield was fouled by Aimaq – his fifth and final foul – sending Schofield to the line where he hit a pair of free throws to cap a five-point possession. .
Dixie State held UVU scoreless in the field in overtime.
“I think our defense was good,” Judkins said. “Our fans…it was a big game. There’s no doubt that the crowd tonight was a big factor in our game. We were tired. They were tired. When you have fans like that you kind of forget so how tired you are.”
Nield and Harmon each split another pair of free throws to cut the lead to 78-75. A Harding three failed and ended up in the hands of Gooden, who found Saine who had been fouled.
Stain connected on a pair of free throws to ice the victory for Dixie State.
Hunter Schofield finished with a game-high 26 points and had 17 in the first half to help bounce back from an 8-0 start for UVU.
“He landed some big shots,” Judkins said. “One thing I liked about what he did tonight is that he didn’t force a lot of things. He had open looks, he pulled them and made them. [In the] second half, they adjusted to him but he didn’t force it.”
“They were kind of sagging on me to start the game, so I had a few pretty wide shots and knocked down a few of them,” Schofield said. “When you do that, you kind of start to feel it.”
Schofield also drew the defensive assignment on potential WAC Player of the Year Fardaws Aimaq.
Aimaq had 20 points and 21 rebounds the night before the fouling.
“He probably has a chance to play at the next level,” Judkins said. “I think he really worked on his game. Last year it was all in the key. This year you saw him hit a three, he hit us some 15 feet. Just a real solid player. “
In the past nine days, Dixie State has twice challenged WAC leader New Mexico State and upended the Grand Canyon and Utah Valley.
“We’re resilient,” Gooden said. “We don’t really care about noise. We know we come to every game as underdogs. Going back to the start of the season, I told everyone we were going to shock some heads and that’s what we do. We learn that we can play with anyone.”
The DI-era home record crowd of 4,270 gave the Trailblazers a much-needed boost of energy.
“It was huge. They missed a few free throws at the end of the game, which I think has a lot to do with our student section. They gave us energy. It’s so much fun to play in a place like this when we get all the students and all the community members to support us.”
Dixie State will look to build on their momentum against Cal Baptist on Thursday.
Sean Ellertson is a sports reporter for the St. George Spectrum & Daily News. To continue supporting his work, please subscribe to The Spectrum. Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanEllertson.