Another weekend of amazing WAC games closes as we get closer to #WACVegas. Teams are trying to get their seeding in place. Or, in the case of the expansion teams, end their first Division I season with good momentum. Once again series splits continue to define the back-to-back format in the WAC. Split series only add to the unpredictability as we get closer to the conference tournament. Here is a quick recap of another split weekend.
Utah Valley at New Mexico State
GM 1: UVU 69-66
GM 2: NMSU 67-60
It was a defensive, “grind-it-out” series in El Paso. The Wolverines’ normally high-powered offense was stifled by a tough Aggies defense all weekend long. But, credit to the Wolverines for stepping up their defensive game. The Aggies never shot 40% or higher from the field in either game. And New Mexico State was held to sub-35% from beyond the arc in both games. But, the turnover bug is what led to a split series. The Aggies ball control was on point and kept both games close despite poor shooting. New Mexico State had only 14 turnovers in the series compared to 29 for Utah Valley. In fact, Aggie point guard Evan Gilyard had zero turnovers on the weekend.
Utah Valley was led by JJ Overton this series, who averaged 17 points in the series and shot a remarkable 80% from the field in Friday’s win. New Mexico State had Jabari Rice lead the way overall, averaging 16 points per game as well. Rice went off for 20 points in Saturday’s win.
The Wolverines are now 8-9 this season and 6-3 in WAC competition. New Mexico State remains at .500 overall with a 6-6 record, and a 3-5 record in WAC play. Utah Valley takes on UTRGV in Orem next weekend whilst the Aggies travel to Stephenville to take on the Texans of Tarleton State.
Tarleton State at Dixie State
GM 1: Tarleton 77-59
GM 2: Dixie State 64-48
Another split series. It never ends. And both Tarleton State and Dixie State have had the split bug this season. Dixie State has split its last three conference series. Tarleton State split its last conference series against Utah Valley.
Both WAC newcomers traded blows as they matched up for the first time as Division I opponents. Friday, Tarleton took control from the tip, while on Saturday a tight first half led to Dixie State pulling away and never looking back in the second half. Shooting splits were night and day in the two games. Tarleton shot 50% from the field on Friday but only 35% on Saturday. For Dixie State, almost exactly vice versa, shooting only 30% on Friday but bouncing back by shooting 42% on Saturday.
Konstantin Dotsenko lead the way in Friday’s win with 23 points for the Texans. Freddy Hicks had 13 points to lead Tarleton on Saturday. Dixie State was led by Hunter Schofield’s 20 points on Friday, and then Isaiah Pope’s career-high 22 points in Saturday’s win.
Dixie State moves to 8-11 on the year with the series split, and 4-8 in WAC play. Tarleton State, meanwhile, is now 7-9 this season, and holds the worst WAC record at 2-6.
Dixie State hosts Park (AZ) on March 2 before finishing its first season at the Division I level by hosting New Mexico State. Meanwhile, the Texans host the defending WAC champions New Mexico State next weekend in the Wisdom Gym before finishing up at UTRGV the following weekend.
California Baptist at Grand Canyon
GM 1: GCU 71-61
GM 2: CBU 65-62
The Lancers made a statement in this series. CBU gave the Lopes a tough back and forth game Friday that they just lost in the end. And on Saturday, the Lancers took down the frontrunners, 65-62, handing GCU their first conference loss of their season. Friday really came down to the battle in the paint. Gorjok Gak had a tough time containing the two-big tandem of Alessandro Lever and Asbjørn Midtgaard. Saturday, however, the Lancers were able to contain Lever and Midtgaard more so, forcing GCU’s guards to take more of the shots. The Lancers were able to do just enough offensively to keep themselves in the game. And CBU hit their free throws down the stretch to hold off the Lopes.
California Baptist was led yet again by the consistency of Ty Rowell, who had 12 points on Friday and then led all scorers with 19 on Saturday. Most importantly, Rowell hit his free throws down the stretch. The Lopes were led by Alessandro Lever on Friday with 19 points. But Lever was held to a poor shooting night Saturday. Mikey Dixon scored 15 points to lead GCU in Saturday’s loss.
The Lancers are now 11-8 on the year and 5-5 in WAC play. Grand Canyon still holds an impressive 13-4 record on the year, but fall to 7-1 in WAC play after having suffered their first conference loss. California Baptist gets a break next week before hosting the Redhawks of Seattle U in their final conference series on March 5th and 6th. Meanwhile the Lopes will be traveling to Seattle to take on those same Redhawks next weekend.
Dallas Christian at UTRGV – Non-Conference
In their first game since the tragic passing of Coach Lew Hill, the Vaqueros took the floor. And UTRGV honored their late coach with a defensive clinic against the NCCAA Dallas Christian Crusaders. It was a pummeling from the start to the tune of 116-51. The Vaqueros dominated on both ends of the court, shooting over 50% from the field with 27 assists, and grabbing 27 steals and 50 rebounds.
Five Vaqueros scored in double figures. Sean Rhea led the way with 19 points, Laquan Butler (22), Marek Nelson (18), Quinton Johnson II (13), and Uche Dibiamaka (15) were also in double figures. Senior Rob McClain Jr. also dished out 10 assists off the bench.
UTRGV are now 9-4 this season, and are still 2-0 in WAC play. They take on their first WAC opponent in over a month as they travel to Orem to take on the Utah Valley Wolverines next weekend.