Mikey Dixon’s 27 points leads Idaho to win over Northern Arizona
March 5, 2022 Updated Sat., March 5, 2022 at 8:44 p.m.
MOSCOW, Idaho – Mikey Dixon introduced himself to Idaho fans with a 16-point performance in the Vandals’ season-opening loss to Long Beach State last November.
The senior transfer from Grand Canyon University, and Idaho’s leading scorer averaging 16.9 points per game, sixth best in the Big Sky Conference, bid those fans adieu Saturday with a 27-point outing to lead Idaho to a 78-69 win against Northern Arizona on Senior Day.
The Vandals closed the regular season 9-21 overall, 6-14 in the Big Sky. Seven losses were by six points or fewer. Idaho had a signature win against Summit League powerhouse South Dakota State, and the Vandals fashioned a three-game win streak against some of the Big Sky’s better teams, Weber State, Montana and Eastern Washington.
“We had a lot of ups and downs as a team,” Dixon said. “We stuck with it. We wanted to see it all the way through.
“You hope for days like this. I think we earned it.”
On balance, Dixon said he is satisfied with his decision to close his collegiate career as a Vandal.
Dixon topped 30 points twice, including a season-best 35 against South Dakota State. In Idaho’s past three games, however, he was held to 13 against Sacramento State, 14 against Northern Colorado and 10 against Portland State before breaking loose against NAU.
“The past week before this has been rough for me,” Dixon said. “It tested my maturity. But I’ve got to trust my teammates, whether I’m scoring or not.”
Vandals coach Zac Claus said Dixon’s slump was a product of his fearlessness to go to the basket against bigger players.
“He’s a 165-pound 2 guard we lean on all the time to score points,” Claus said. “We play the longest sport in college athletics. Guys get beat up, wilt a bit. He’s been nothing short of amazing for us.”
The Lumberjacks got out to an early 7-2 lead, but the Vandals refused to let them get away. Dixon had a big hand in that. He converted a 3-pointer and one of his characteristic twisting drives to bring Idaho within 9-7 by the first timeout.
The Vandals tied the score at 18-all on Ethan Kilgore’s reverse layup off an assist from Rashad Smith midway through the first half. Smith gave them their first lead moments later with a putback, and Dixon hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 4 seconds to play for a 34-33 halftime lead.
Idaho took over the game early in the second half. With the score tied at 37, the Vandals outscored NAU 16-7 over the next 8 minutes.
“We knew coming out after the half the first 5 minutes were going to be pivotal,” Dixon said. “We wanted to come out and set a tone.”
The Lumberjacks (9-22, 5-15) tested Idaho, though, and cut the Vandals’ lead to 65-61 with 1:37 to play before Vandals 6-1 point guard Trevante Anderson hit a baby hook over 6-7 Carson Towt.
Claus was ecstatic about Idaho holding NAU to 25-of-65 shooting from the floor even though the Lumberjacks’ Jalen Cone had a game-high 35 points on 12-of-23 shooting.
“That was huge for us,” Claus said of Idaho’s defense.
Keith Haymon followed Cone with 14 points for NAU. No other NAU player scored more than five.
Claus said a Vandals’ focus was limiting NAU from beyond the arc, and the Lumberjacks shot just 7 for 32 on 3-point attempts.
In addition to Dixon, Idaho recognized a second senior transfer, Jemeil King, before the game. He contributed five points, two assists and a steal.
Claus said he thanked both players before and after the game for taking a chance on Idaho.
“They’ve been a treat to be around,” he said. … “They are awesome guys to have as teammates.
“I told them I’m not ready to let them go.”
The Vandals will play either NAU or Sacramento State in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Boise at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday
“We had moments when these guys could have gone south in a big way,” Claus said. “But they were resilient. They bounced right back.”
Now they hope to head to the tournament with momentum.
“We’ll be ready for the moment,” Claus said.
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