SAINT GEORGE – Steven Larson dedicated his past offseason to improving on the court and playing a more prominent role in the Dixie State system. Saturday night, the sophomore from South Jordan proved the efforts off the parquet have paid dividends this season.
Larson scored 23 points, leading the Red Storm to a 68-58 victory over Point Loma Nazarene, improving the team’s record to 6-3 overall and 3-1 in Pacific West Conference play.
The stellar performance included hitting half his shots from the field (6-of-12) and knocking home 11-of-14 attempts from the free throw line, obliterating his previous single-game totals in both statistical categories (four makes, six tries respectively).
“Steve was hungry and wanted the ball inside,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “That was our game plan tonight. Our posts could be really good if we sit down and get big.”
Zach Robbins added 12 points and nine rebounds. Dalton Groskreutz had 10 points while Kimball Payne ripped down a career-high six rebounds.
True to the nature of Point Loma’s (2-6, 0-2 PWC) scheme, the Princeton offense kept the scoring low in the first half. Larson had 11 of the Red Storm’s first 19 points. The Sea Lions struggled from behind the arc, making just one of 16 attempts, to trail DSC 28-20 at the break.
“I thought we did a good job for about 35 minutes defending their stuff, the Princeton stuff,” Judkins said. “For about five minutes, we got lazy and stood up and they hit some open three’s.”
Dixie State used an opening 13-5 run in the second half to lead by 16, 41-25. PLNU’s Judd Welfringer attempted to single-handedly bring the Sea Lions back. His 20-point second half was highlighted by deep triples cutting the Dixie State lead to nine at the 13:20 mark.
Timely Larson lay-ins and 19 opportunities from the free-throw line allowed DSC to keep separation from Point Loma.
Arren Wells joined Welfringer in double figures with 10 points.
Dixie State was held below their season average from the field (22-48, 45.8 percent), but flourished from the line (22-of-28). The Storm would the battle of the boards 36-30 and outran PLNU 16-0 in the fast break.
Dixie State takes a sabbatical from league play beginning Tuesday to host the first annual Las Vegas Challenge in the Orleans Arena. The opening round game pits the Red Storm against the Mules of Central Missouri – tip set at 7:30 p.m. Pacific (8:30 p.m. Mountain).
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