Wade Miller poured in a career-high 22 points off the bench to lead five Trailblazers in double figures as Dixie State claimed its eighth-straight win with an 87-74 result over Fresno Pacific on Friday night in the Burns Arena. With the win, the Trailblazers move a full game ahead of Azusa Pacific (10-3) atop Pacific West Conference standings at 11-2, 14-6 overall.
The winning streak looked like it was in jeopardy in the early going as Fresno Pacific (5-17, 3-11 PacWest) hit five of its first six shots to bolt out to a 10-0 lead just 2:24 into the game. The Trailblazers, who were playing at home for the first time after completing a grueling four-game, eight-day road trip to the Bay Area, missed their first six shots before Trevor Hill scored in the paint to get DSU on the board.
DSU finally managed to shake off the slow start, thanks in large part to the Trailblazer reserves who outscored the Sunbirds, 17-4, in a span of four minutes to erase the deficit and give DSU a 19-14 lead. Miller sparked the rally with six quick points on a 3-pointer and a conventional three-point play. Reserve forward Dub Price also got into the act with six-straight points during the run, and Miller capped the rally with another trey with 11:43 to go in the stanza.
FPU countered with five-straight points to knot the score at 19-19, but Dixie State answered that spurt with 11-straight points, including four points from Hill and three more from Julien Ducree, en route to its biggest lead of the half at 30-19 with 4:51 to play until the intermission. However, the Sunbirds would not go away as Fresno Pacific closed the half with a 17-5 run to take a 36-35 advantage into the locker room.
Dixie State wasted little time wrestling the lead back as the Trailblazers opened the second half with a 16-6 spurt to extend to a 51-42 lead with 15:13 to play. Miller again spurred the rally with two more 3-pointers, while Hill bookended the run with a pair of lay-ins.
The Trailblazers never surrendered the lead in the second half, though DSU could never really put the Sunbirds away. FPU stayed within striking distance, eventually trimming the DSU lead to three at 68-65 with 7:19 remaining. However, that was as close as FPU got as Daylor Youngblood hit a clutch 3-pointer on Dixie State’s next trip down the court, and the Trailblazers maintained at least a two-possession lead the rest of the way.
Miller tied a DSU single-game record with six 3-pointers (6-of-11) as part of a 7-of-13 shooting night. Meanwhile, Hill finished one assist shy of becoming the first player in Dixie State’s NCAA era to record a triple-double as the senior finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high nine assists. Hill also pulled into a tie for first place on Dixie State’s career steals list with his 142nd career steal with 26 seconds to play in the contest.
Price also enjoyed a solid night as he tallied 10 points, seven boards, three assists and two steals in 22 reserve minutes, while starters Zac Hunter and Kyler Nielson chipped in 10 points apiece. Overall, the Trailblazer bench accounted for 43 of Dixie State’s 87 points on the night.
“I thought the second half we were tougher mentally, we weren’t begging for calls and we took it to [Fresno Pacific],” DSU head coach Jon Judkins said. “A good team figures out how to win and when you don’t play well, you still have to figure out a way to win, and that’s what our guys did tonight. I thought Wade played well—one of his best games ever—and Trevor had a solid game."
DSU shot 44.4 percent (28-of-63) from the floor, including 7-of-20 (.350) from the perimeter, but again struggled from the foul line as the Trailblazers connected on only 63.2 percent (24-of-38) of their attempts. Dixie State also finished with a season-high 20 assists and turned the ball over just seven times, while the Trailblazer defense forced 16 Sunbird miscues.
Sam Burt led FPU with 22 points and nine rebounds. Fresno Pacific shot 39.7 percent (23-of-58) from the field, 71.4 percent (20-of-28) from the line and outrebounded DSU by a 42-40 count.
Dixie State heads back out on the road next weekend as the Trailblazers make their final trip the Islands as a member of the PacWest Conference. DSU opens the trip at Chaminade on Thursday, Feb. 1, followed by a date at Hawai'i Pacific on Saturday, Feb. 3.
Steve Johnson is the Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations and Collegiate Licensing at Dixie State University. For more DSU Athletics news, please visit www.dixieathletics.com and follow Dixie State on Twitter at @DixieAthletics.