Big night from Caboclo not enough to keep Vipers’ streak alive

BY SAUL BERRIOS-THOMAS | STAFF WRITER

EDINBURG — Coming into Thursday’s game at Bert Ogden Area against the Oklahoma City Blue, RGV Vipers forward Bruno Caboclo said he wasn’t feeling his best.

Still he was ready to play, and when he got to the court for his pregame shootaround, the 3s started falling.

“At the shootaround the 3-pointer, it was feeling very good,” Caboclo said. “I had a good shooting percentage from 3. I was fighting through it, going for every rebound.”

Caboclo rode his hot hand to his third double-double of the season. He posted season-highs in points, 26, and rebounds, 12. His 12 rebounds were a game-high against the G League’s best offensive-rebounding team. The Blue are third in the league in rebounding percentage.

Caboclo’s dominant showing wasn’t enough, as the Blue rallied from being down 20 at one point, to win 110-99 on Thursday, snapping the Vipers five-game win streak at Bert Ogden Arena.

“We have a lot of young guys who played tonight,” Vipers coach Joseph Blair said. “Guys who haven’t been in these spots before. Hopefully tonight was a learning experience, and we are better for it.”

Without center Zhou Qi, who is with the Houston Rockets, the Vipers had just two big men to play against the Blue, who have shot the second most field goals per game inside of five feet.

To make matters worse, a controversy sucked the life out of the Vipers at the worst possible moment.

In transition Caboclo was called for a foul.

“He picked up what I thought was his fifth foul,” Blair said. “After I subbed him out, I was told it was his sixth foul. Obviously, if I knew he had five fouls at that point, he would not have been in the game at that point. I think that was a big change, you can see he had 26 and 12 when he went out. Also, he was our best defense against Tyler Davis. Like I said, knowing what I know now, which looking at the stat sheet, I don’t think anyone knew, until the bookkeeper said he had six. We keep stats on our bench, including fouls, and we had him at five.”

Chris Walker was the only big man left standing to try to guard the Blue’s Davis.

Davis scored 31 and hauled in 10 rebounds. The Blue had 7 total blocks. They outscored the Vipers 64-48 in the paint.

With point guard Angel Rodriguez sidelined with injury, and forward Danuel House now also with the Rockets, the Vipers played 10 players, but only 8 registered more than five minutes.

The Vipers finished the game with neither Caboclo nor Chris Walker on the court.

The Vipers have been able to overcome most signs of adversity with 3-point shooting. Coming into Thursday’s game, the Vipers were first in the league in 3-point makes, second in attempts and third in 3-point percentage.

At the half, the Vipers were shooting 10-of-22 from 3. However, they finished the night 14 for 43.

The Vipers were up big early. At the 3:41 mark of the second quarter, the Blue realized the path to victory. In a minute and a half, the Blue went on a 9-0 run, cutting the lead to nine. Davis had three of the four scores, and the other was a 3-pointer from sharpshooter Bryce Alford.

From that point, the Vipers lead never grew past 15 points. The Blue hung tough, and struck at the right time.

The Blue started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to two.

Forward Vincent Edwards returned to action for the Vipers after missing the last three games with injury.

“It’s just good to be out there,” Edwards said. “When you sit out for three games, it gets boring after a little while. You just get antsy and your anxiety gets up a little bit, because you are just ready to be out there.”

Edwards played a team-high 42 minutes and 17 seconds. He scored 17 with 9 rebounds and 3 assists.

“It was good having Vince back,” Blair said. “I thought especially when Bruno was out, he gave us the most resistance down low. Nine rebounds for him, that is great, I love to see that. For his first night back, he had to play a lot of minutes. He did really well.”

Edwards had no excuses for a tough loss, but he did well to sum up the impact of Caboclo’s departure.

“As far as we were concerned he was fouled out,” Edwards said. “It was a low blow to lose him at that point in the game, crunch time. It forced us to go small, but that is not an excuse. We still have to keep our energy up. We had great energy through the first three quarters, and then we fell off there at the end.”

Now, the Vipers just have to turn around and do it all over again. They host the Salt Lake City Stars at 7 p.m. tonight at Bert Ogden Arena.

sberrios-thomas@themonitor.com