Brandon Miller tied a school record with six 3-pointers and led three Trailblazers in double figures as Dixie State outlasted Sonoma State, 64-62, in the second game of the 2016 DSU/Wingate Thanksgiving Classic on Friday night in the Burns Arena.
The Trailblazers (2-3) shook off another slow start thanks to a 12-0 run that turned a five-point deficit into a 14-7 lead, a lead they would never relinquish, with 8:33 to go in the opening frame. After Sonoma State (3-2) pulled to within a bucket at 17-15, Dixie State rattled off a 15-7 spurt to push its advantage to 32-22 en route to a 34-26 edge at intermission.
Dixie State never trailed in the second half, though the Trailblazers could never put the Seawolves away. DSU enjoyed its biggest lead of the game at 51-39 midway through the stanza, but Sonoma State managed to pare that advantage down to four at 58-54 after a Jordan Fleck jumper with 3:13 to play.
Miller answered on the Trailblazers’ next possession as he hit a 3-pointer from the left wing on a feed from Trevor Hill, then after a Brandon Simister free throw, DSU had pushed its lead back to eight at 62-54 with 2:12 to go.
The Seawolves mounted one last charge as they forced two Trailblazer turnovers, which turned into Sonoma points. Khalid Johnson and Jimmy Golden hit consecutive layups to pull to within 62-58 with 1:46 left. DSU, which struggled from the foul line, split a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 63-58 with 22 seconds left, but Jackson Gion made it a one-possession game on SSU’s next time down the court as he hit a deep trey to pull the Seawolves to within a basket at 63-61 with 13 ticks on the clock.
Miller was fouled on DSU’s ensuing possession, and after he split two free throws, the Trailblazers fouled Johnson to keep SSU from tying the game with a 3-pointer. With three seconds left, Johnson hit the first free throw and intentionally missed the second foul shot. Hill managed to clear the rebound, and DSU ran out the clock to escape with the win.
“I loved our toughness in finishing the game tonight,” DSU head coach Jon Judkins said. “You've got to learn how to win in the end, but again, if we make foul shots it’s not even close. We're getting better, we’re playing harder, but when we’ve got the lead we have to extend that lead.”
Miller hit on 6-of-8 from beyond the arc to finish with a game and career-high 19 points in his first start of the season. Miller’s six treys tied the DSU NCAA era school record first set by former DSU players Donovan Plunkett and Tom Whitehead back in the 2009-10 season at Hawai’i Pacific and tied by Whitehead again in the 2010-11 season at home vs. Pacifica.
Senior forward Josh Fuller added 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting and grabbed a team-high six rebounds, while Hill chipped in 12 points with five boards, four assists and three steals.
Dixie State shot 42.2 percent from the floor (19-of-45), including 8-of-14 from the perimeter (.571). In fact, the Trailblazers had a better percentage from beyond the arc than the charity stripe as DSU only hit on 56.3 percent of its free throws (18-of-32), which included a paltry 11-of-21 (.524) in the second half.
Sonoma State matched DSU in field goal percentage (19-of-45; .429) and hit 9-of-20 (.450) from 3-point country, but DSU hit three more free throws than SSU (15-of-18; .833), which proved to be the difference. Gion led three Seawolves in double figures with 18 points off the bench.
Dixie State will play Western Oregon in the Classic’s finale on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. WOU defeated Westminster College, 65-58, in the first game of the Classic earlier in the day Friday. Sonoma State and Westminster will play in the first game on Saturday beginning at 5 p.m.
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.