One of Mark Few’s mottos every season is to get better every day. These games against lesser competition are opportunities for everyone to get better. Last night, Gonzaga dismantled Northern Arizona. Tonight, they get a new opponent in Dixie State.
The Trailblazers, out of St. George, Utah, are making their Division 1 debut this year, playing in the Western Athletic Conference. They are 4-1 to start the season, with two wins over non-D1 programs and a pair of one possession victories over North Dakota and Denver. Their lone loss came at Southern Utah.
Dixie State was one of the more consistent programs in Division II. Led by long time head coach Jon Judkins, brother of BYU Women’s Coach Jeff Judkins, the Trailblazers were mainstays in the D2 Tournament, with back-to-back regional final appearances in 2011 and 2012. Judkins owns more than 550 wins over his career.
They have four players averaging double figures, led by junior forward Jacob Nicolds, who puts up 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest. It will be a different challenge from Northern Arizona, who had fewer weapons and liked to slow the game down. As whole, Dixie State loves to play uptempo, ranking top 20 in fastest possession length. It will be interesting to see if they try to get in an up-and-down battle with the best transition team in the country.
This game will be another opportunity for the depth players to gain experience. Julian Strawther and Oumar Ballo both played season-high in minutes on Monday. Aaron Cook got more run with Jalen Suggs out with a minor leg injury. Dominick Harris had a career-high 12 points. All those guys will have the chance to develop and get better and the starters have a chance to tighten up some things, as the team plays their final non-conference game of the season and their final game of 2020.
Game: Gonzaga vs Dixie State
Time: 6 pm pacific
TV: KHQ/ROOT Sports NW (Heister, Dickau, Fox)
Stream: Out of region