ST. GEORGE — Motivation. Dixie State had it Saturday night and Azusa Pacific really had no chance.
“Motivated? I would hope so. I would be,” DSU coach Jon Judkins said. “As coaches, we prepare them as best we can, but it’s up to them to go out and play.”
With three solid days of practice since last week’s loss to Hawaii Pacific, Dixie State looked rejuvenated against Azusa, forcing turnovers, throwing down dunks and nailing 3-pointers.
“That loss in Hawaii left a bad taste in our mouths,” Dixie forward Jordan Rex said. “We wanted to leave that loss there and focus on the future, on this next game.”
It was easy to see from the get-go that the Red Storm meant business. DSU opened the game on a 10-2 run in the first 2:13 of play, fueled by a pair of DeQuan Thompson 3-pointers. The Cougars got within 16-11 with 13:52 to go in the first half, but Curtis Papenfuss, Robbie Nielsen and Landon Clegg all hit 3-pointers in an 11-0 Dixie State run to make it 27-11 with 11:27 to go in the half. The quick blitz took just 2:25 of game time.
“We really didn’t play well at the end of that road trip in Hawaii,” Thompson said. “We wanted to come out tonight and play more like we’re capable of playing. We came out with more intensity on defense and really shared the ball well on offense.”
Thompson, the current Pacific West Conference Player of the Week, made all four of his 3-pointer attempts in the first half and was a big part of the Red Storm’s building a 49-24 lead at halftime.
“We focused on three things this week in practice — defense, rebounding and staying in our defensive stance, fundamentals,” Rex said. “Coach always said that if you play good defense, the offense will come.”
And come it did as Dixie State made 8 of 11 3-pointers (73 percent) in the first half and shot 58 percent from the floor in the first half as a team. In contrast, the Cougars made just 1 of 10 treys before intermission and hit just 25 percent of their shots before halftime.
“Sometimes losses are good. You can learn from them,” Judkins said. “They can recharge your battery and maybe wake you up a little bit, see that you’re not as good as you thought you were if you don’t play defense and rebound.”
The onslaught continued after halftime as DSU pushed the lead to 37 points (75-38 with 9:46 to play) before letting up on the gas. It was 84-47 after a Rex layup with 5:45 left. Azusa Pacific outscored the Dixie State reserves 16-3 the rest of the way.
Three different DSU players had 16 points. Thomson did most of his damage in the first half, with center Zach Robbins steady as a rock with 14 rebounds as well. Mason Sawyer was the third player with 16. The Storm point guard had a pair of treys, plus four assists and four rebounds.
Rex, the former Pine View standout, had 12 points and 11 boards. Azusa Pacific was led by Troy Leaf, who had 18 points.
Dixie State, 12-1 overall and 6-1 in conference, continues its home stand with Monday night’s battle against Fresno Pacific (5-9, 0-6) which lost 81-67 to Cal Baptist Saturday night.
The Cougars, 7-5 and 3-3, are home against Dominion Tuesday night.
Stats: DSU 87, APU 63
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