The opening weekend of WAC play had a different outcome for the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Dixie State. While the women had a historic road trip in Texas, the men struggled to find their stroke at home in St. George. Although the results were different, both squads set in place cornerstones to build a solid conference season.
Dixie State Women’s Basketball (5-8, 1-1)
The 2020-21 season for Dixie State was virtually non-existent. After head coach, JD Gustin’s squad saw five of their eight non-conference games canceled, school officials decided to suspend the program’s activities for the remainder of the season. Thus making the Trailblazers wait for their first win over a Division I opponent until the 21-22 campaign.
The non-conference slate included visits to two PAC-12 teams, one of which was 9th-ranked Oregon and five other strong Division I opponents. With this tough schedule, the Trailblazers found themselves winless against equal competition, that is, until Thursday night.
Behind an incredible 40-minute performance from Emily Isaacson, Dixie State downed the Tarleton Texans, 57-49, on the opening weekend of WAC play. Isaacson, a redshirt sophomore, went 7-11 from the floor, 3-7 from three, and 8-8 from the free-throw line en route to a 25-point night. Add in 9 assists and 3 blocks, and she was the difference-maker. A program’s first Division I victory doesn’t come on the back of one player as Isaacson had plenty of help. Freshman Maddie Warren also logged 40 minutes for Dixie State, and scored 12 points all from beyond the arc.
Saturday’s trip to Abilene Christian did not send the Trailblazers away with the same outcome. The Wildcats came away with a 71-53 victory. Heading into the fourth quarter, the deficit was only six points. Late turnovers by DSU and clutch shooting from ACU widened the gap and ultimately ended the game. Breaunna Gillen was the high scorer with 16 points on 5-8 shooting. Freshman Avery Papa posted career highs in points and blocks on Saturday, scoring 11 and swatting away four Wildcat shots.
The road trip was a step in the right direction for the Gustin’s Trailblazers. A road win puts the conference on notice that they are not going to be an automatic win. Opponents will have to come in every night expecting a dog fight with the Trailblazers. Dixie State hosts last year’s WAC NCAA Tournament representative, Utah Valley on Saturday, January 8 in St. George.
Dixie State Men’s Basketball (7-8, 0-2)
The opening weekend of WAC play left Dixie State with some questions after two home losses. On Thursday, Tarleton downed the Trailblazers, 83-69. The Texans, who were playing without 5 players due to Covid and one due to a season-ending knee injury, saw four players play all 40 minutes. They also shot a combined 50 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three. In every sense of the term, it felt like Tarleton couldn’t miss.
Dixie State had four of five starters score in double digits, led by Cameron Gooden with 15. Hunter Schofield added 14, Dancell Leter ended with 13 and Frank Staine scored 10. Freshman Noa Gonsalves continued his impressive freshman campaign with 11 points off the bench. Dixie State made a late run Thursday night that was highlighted by a poster dunk from Leter. The dunk closed the gap to two points with seven minutes remaining. However, the Texans came out of the media timeout firing and never looked back.
Saturday’s bout was a different type of matchup for Dixie State. Hosting last season’s Southland Conference champs, Abilene Christian, the Trailblazers dropped the defensive battle, 64-50. Leter paced the home squad with 15 points on 4-7 shooting and Schofield chipped in 10. Other than that, Dixie State could not seem to find the basket, shooting an uncharacteristic 2-18 from deep and only 14-43 from the floor along with a season-high 27 turnovers. Despite the poor shooting performance, Dixie State played tough defense only allowing one Wildcat to reach double digits.
Dixie State travels to Orem this weekend to take on Utah Valley. Last season in the second leg of a two-game series, Schofield posted a career-high 31 points leading the Trailblazers to a 93-89 victory at the UCCU Center. The shooting should turn around and Head Coach Jon Judkins will put together a solid game plan to deal with one of the top big men in college basketball in Fardaws Aimaq.