ST. GEORGE — Welcome to the Western Athletic Conference, new guys.
The Dixie State men’s basketball team played its first conference game as a member of the Western Athletic Conference on Friday night, getting routed by host University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros in Edinburg, Texas, 82-49.
The Trailblazers held the lead for only 45 seconds total and trailed for the final 37 minutes of the game. Their lead never got higher than two points after junior point guard Cameron Gooden landed a layup to open the game 45 seconds in.
After freshman Andre Mulibea landed a 3-pointer to make the lead 5-4, the Vaqueros scored 15 straight points to complete a 19-2 stretch. The Trailblazers turned the ball over seven times in the sequence and 18 times in the half en route to a 41-24 deficit at the midway point. Rio Grande Valley turned the ball over only 17 times over the course of the entire game.
Mulibea’s 3-pointer would eventually become the only one Dixie State made on the night in 14 attempts. It shot only 34.6% from the floor overall in the contest.
Rio Grande Valley applied pressure all night and kept the ‘Blazers from getting comfortable, even inbounds on the defensive end.
The second half played out similarly, as the Vaqueros outscored Dixie 41-25. They scored 14 of the first 16 points in the second stanza.
Rob McClain slammed a dunk at the 14:46 mark of the second half to give the Vaqueros a 55-28 lead. Afterward, Dixie went on a 14-2 run, including 10 straight points over the course of five minutes. Rio Grande Valley scored 25 of the final 34 points from there, however.
The 49 points posted by Dixie is the program’s fewest since losing to Seattle Pacific 58-42 on Nov. 11, 2011.
Gooden led DSU with 13 points in just 28 minutes in his home state of Texas. He went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line and also led Dixie with five rebounds. Frank Staine posted nine and Isaiah Pope scored eight from the bench.
Four Vaqueros scored double-digits, led by Sean Rhea’s 16.
It was the ‘Blazers’ first ever Western Athletic Conference game after last weekend’s home series against New Mexico State was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols in the Aggies’ program. Burns Arena hosts its first WAC game on Friday as Dixie State welcomes Grand Canyon University.
The Trailblazers fall to 4-4 overall on the season as they stretch their losing streak to three games, falling to 0-1 in league play.
The Trailblazers play the Vaqueros again Saturday evening. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. and the game can be streamed on the WAC Digital Network.
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