Mesa comes up short against Dixie

Colorado Mesa’s men’s basketball team fell behind late in the first half Friday night and was unable to recover in its season opener.

Dixie State (Utah) College defeated the Mavericks 85-81 in the Dixie State Classic in St. George, Utah.

The Red Storm received votes in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II preseason poll and is favored to win the Pac West Conference title.

Landon Vermeer led the Mavericks (0-1) with 20 points. He made six 3-pointers in seven tries.

“It was good to see Landon play well,” CMU coach Andy Shantz said. “He had some injuries in the preseason. He’s a good kid and an outstanding person.”

Ryan Stephan had 17 points, and Carlos Perez scored 16 in his Mesa debut.

“Ryan played well,” Shantz said. “He has good hands and feet. He’s a tough matchup for people.”

Five players scored in double figures for the Red Storm (1-0), led by Zach Robbins, the Pac West Conference preseason player of the year, with 17 points. He had 12 rebounds and five blocked shots as well.

Colorado Mesa took a 5-0 lead in the first half, but the Red Storm came back and closed the first half with an 18-8 run for a 49-38 halftime lead. Robbins had eight of Dixie State’s points during the run, including a dunk with 1 minute, 22 seconds left for a 46-38 lead.

“They played well in the first half,” Shantz said. “They hit shots, and we didn’t defend as well.”

Part of that was adjusting to the new hand-check rule.

“The officials did a good job,” Shantz said. “We had a hard time adjusting to the new rule. We had several in foul trouble. I think it will be an adjustment for everybody.”

Nobody fouled out for the Mavericks, but three players finished with four fouls.

The Mavericks were whistled for 23 fouls, and Dixie had 19. Each team made 15 free throws. Mesa shot 22, and Dixie shot 23.

Dixie pushed its lead to 14 points with 10:51 left in the second half, but the Mavericks went on a 10-4 run to cut Dixie’s lead to single digits.

“The second half, we played much better,” Shantz said. “We made them be a jump-shooting team and got it down to one possession with a minute-30 left. We missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

“They are a good team. I think we grew up a lot tonight.”

The Mavericks got within one point with 1:09 left on Vermeer’s sixth 3-pointer, but they didn’t get any closer.

Perez hit two free throws to cut Dixie’s lead to 81-79 with 17 seconds left, but the Red Storm made all four of its free throws down the stretch.

Colorado Mesa plays California Baptist (0-0) at 5 tonight.


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