Perhaps St. George should change its name to Upset City. Or maybe that is what the Burns Arena can be referred to. Something has to give, right? Just ask Southern Utah, Grand Canyon and Utah Valley how they felt playing in the Burns Arena.
Last season was a huge leap forward for the Utah Tech Trailblazer mens basketball team. The thirteen win season was the most wins in the program’s two year old NCAA Division I era. The squad had a first team all conference selection and some very impressive wins. For Utah Tech’s preview week, we thought it would be interesting to recap some big time upset wins of the 21-22 season.
November 12, 2021: Utah Tech 83, Southern Utah 76
What a way to open a season! Upset City was alive and well.
Two schools separated by just 45 minutes that haven’t decided if they hate each other or not. The first half started off a little scary for Trailblazer fans, when Southern Utah’s John Knight III set launch for a huge two hand slam to put the Thunderbirds up 3-0. From that point on the Trailblazers commanded the first half. Lead by Hunter Schofield, who scored 19 of his 29 in the first half the Trailblazers carried a 47-30 lead into the half.
The second half was mostly back and forth with the Thunderbirds coming within three with just three minutes left in the game. A three from Trailblazer guard Isaiah Pope proved to be the dagger. UT took care of business from the free throw line going 7-8 from the charity stripe in the last three minutes of the game.
Hunter Schofield finished with a game high 29 points while Frank Staine finished with 11. Cameron Gooden and Trevon Allfrey finished the game with 10. The Trailblazers finished shooting 51% from the field. With 38 points in the paint and 37 bench points.
Unfortunately I don’t have the exact rankings, but at the time there were at least 100 KenPom ranking spots between the two teams making it one of the biggest upsets in program history and solidifying the rivalry.
January 12, 2022: Utah Tech 79, CBU 76
I am going to just tell you that this game was a game of runs. Sure, it wasn’t in Upset City. But, nonetheless, an upset of epic proportions took place.
With each team having multiple 8-point leads and giving up those leads. Early on you could tell it was going to come down to whoever could put together the last run was going to win. The Trailblazers did just that.
With just 1:26 left in the game, Dancell Leter came away with a steal that lead to an Isaiah Pope jumper to cut the deficit to six. Another steal, this time by Staine, would set up a fast break three from Gooden who would finish with a game high 26 points. A Gooden steal then led to a fast break bucket from Leter, making it just a 1-point game with 51 seconds left.
After a timeout, the Lancers committed another turnover leading to a Gooden missed layup but solid court awareness and a nice bounce put the ball into the hands of Staine who dished to Pope for the and-1 bucket and the lead. Pope would make the free throw and on the inbound UT forward Jacob Nicolds drew a charge to give the ball back to the Trailblazers. Gooden would make two free throws to secure the 3-point victory.
The only statement I got from any of the guys following the game was from Isaiah Pope who simply said “Great team win”.
February 12, 2022: Utah Tech 61, GCU 60
The win was by far the biggest upset in the Division I era and rivals the exhibition upset of UNLV in the programs Division II era. Upset City was on full display in the Burns Arena when GCU came to town.
Led, as was the case most of last season, by Hunter Schofield. Schofield had the game high with 18 and Dancell Leter poured in 15. No other Trailblazers finished in double digits.
Neither team took any huge lead in the contest which is evidenced by the six ties and five lead changes. In fact there was no more than a six point lead at any time in the second half. With forty seconds left in the game GCU guard Holland Woods nailed a jumper to tie the game at 60.
On the ensuing possession the Trailblazers used almost the entire shot clock. When Frank Staine placed an entry pass where no one but Schofield could touch it. The senior forward finished and completed the and-1 to give the Trailblazers the lead. Woods would try to go iso for a three but lock down defense by Pope sealed the victory.
The win was the first time the program had ever beat a top 100 team and would eventually keep the Lopes from a share of the WAC title.
February 19, 2022: Utah Tech 80, Utah Valley 75 (OT)
The single most exciting sporting event that I have attended in my life happened in Upset City.
It seems like it almost goes without saying in this article but the game’s high scorer was Hunter Schofield. The senior forward finished with 26, which is even more impressive seeing as UVU’s Fardaws Aimaq was his primary defender most of the game. Despite the great game by Schofield it was the heroics of Cameron Gooden that led to an insane finish in regulation and the overtime victory.
Much like the CBU game, the Trailblazers carried a 7-point deficit late into the game. With 28 seconds left, Leter drilled a three to cut the deficit to four. Leter then fouled UVU guard Justin Harmon to send him to the line and stop the clock. Harmon’s missed free throw was rebounded by Schofield who then scored in the paint off of a Noa Gonsalves pass to make it a 2-point game.
Gooden would foul following the bucket to stop the clock with 10 seconds remaining in the game. UVU’s Connor Harding made his first, but Leter rebounded the missed second and gave the ball to Gooden. Gooden took the ball 94 feet and put his body straight into the chest of Aimaq for an and-1 layup to tie the game.
The overtime was controlled by the Trailblazers who finished the game on a 10-5 run.
To say the 21-22 season was perfect is an obviously false statement. But Head Coach Jon Judkins’ squad gave fans a lot to look forward to for this upcoming season. Now with two in-state, in-conference rivals and a few teams looking to return to the Burns for revenge, the Trailblazers get more opportunities to coin St George, Upset City.