The Dixie State men's basketball team started slow, and despite a 14-2 run in the second half the Trailblazers couldn't get over the hump in an 83-69 loss to Tarleton State in the WAC opener on Thursday night inside the Burns Arena.
Tarleton State—bitten by the injury and COVID bug—only played six players, and opened up a 21-7 lead early in the first half to bury the Trailblazers early.
Javontae Hopkins and Noah McDavid each attacked early, while an aggressive defense from the Texans held Dixie State to a 3/15 start from the field. Hunter Schofield was the lone Trailblazer to find twine in the first nine minutes, scoring all seven of Dixie State's points.
"They fly around," Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins said . "They don't really play a lot of team defense. They're more of get in your face, pressure you, deny you, you're not going to score. Our guys just couldn't see the guy that was open."
Dixie's offense managed to snap out of its funk and claw its way back, getting all the way to within five before a quick 8-3 run by Tarleton but the Texans on track to close out the half.
In the second half, Dixie embarked on a 14-2 run trimming the Tarleton lead all the way down to two with seven minutes remaining.
With his team and the home arena in a frenzy, Judkins called timeout in an effort to give his group a rest. Instead, Tarleton used the break to rest its legs, and quickly expanded their lead back up to 12, with McDavid providing the final dagger.
"I probably made a mistake there," said Judkins. "I called a timeout. I thought our guys were playing really hard and they were just dying."
In the stretch, Noa Gonsalves and Trevon Allfrey provided much-needed production off the bench. Dancell Leter also flashed his typical high energy.
"He's been great," said Judkins of Gonsalves. "You'd never know he was a freshman. He made a couple of mistakes late in the run when we cut it to two, but he's been solid. He's a good defender and a good shooter."
Gonsalves led the Trailblazers in minutes at 32:39 and dropped in 11 points for Dixie off the bench.
The freshman has evolved into a key piece in Judkins' rotation.
"My teammates believe in me and I just try to listen to what my teammates tell me do and go out there and play hard," Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves spelled Brock Gilbert off the bench. Gilbert played just 17 minutes, in part due to his defense, said Judkins.
The speed of Tarleton's guards was prevalent all night. McDavid, Hopkins, and Freddy Hicks were able to slash into the paint and either finish at the rim, or kick out to the three, where Tarleton shot 10/20 on the night.
"We were in the gaps but when they drove it we didn't do a very good job of collapsing and being aggressive on the ball," said Judkins.
McDavid knocked down a game-high four threes on just six attempts. Hicks tallied a game-high 27 points on 9/18 shooting. Hopkins shot 7/9 on his way to 18 points for Tarleton (6-8, 1-0).
Four other Trailblazers (7-7, 0-1) joined Gonsalves in double figures, led by Cameron Gooden's 15.
Sean Ellertson is a sports reporter for the St. George Spectrum & Daily News. To continue to support his work, please subscribe to The Spectrum. Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanEllertson.
This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Sluggish first half too much to overcome for Dixie State in WAC opening loss to Tarleton