LAS VEGAS – Under the bright lights of Sin City, the Dixie State men’s basketball team gelled into a cohesive unit and displayed some of its best team effort in an 89-77 win over Central Missouri on the first day of the Las Vegas Challenge at the Orleans Arena.
The Red Storm (7-3) shot 57.7 percent from the floor, 81 percent (9-of-11) from behind the arc and 80 percent from the free-throw line (20-25).
“I thought we played extremely well tonight,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “For about 29 minutes, it was probably the best I have seen my team play. We were defending, we were rebounding, we were keeping the ball out of the paint – everything was going good.”
Four DSC players scored in double figures, led by forwards Zach Robbins and Steven Larson with 15 points each. McKay Massey had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Sophomore guard De’Quan Thompson set a new career-high with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting with a trio of 3-pointers.
Both teams struggled early – DSC hit one shot in its first six attempts, while Central Missouri (6-3) went one for seven.
With the score knotted at 14-14, the Red Storm put together a string of 11 straight points. Curtis Papenfuss began the rally with an open 3-pointer and Kimball Payne scored back-to-back layups on the tail end.
UCM closed within 10 points with 1:46 left. The final 38 seconds produced two DSC momentum-shifting shots. Robbins was given ample space and popped a three from the top of the key. Thompson stole the ball on the subsequent possession and dished to Brandon Simister on the wing for another 3-pointer giving the Red Storm a 41-25 halftime advantage.
“We're good at running the lanes and pushing the tempo,” Judkins added. “We also have good shooters if teams don’t get back on defense against us.”
Dixie State pumped the lead up as high as 29 points on a 7-0 run midway through the second half. The Red Storm won the battle of the paint, 32-22, and thrived off the fast break (25 to 5).
UCM chipped away over the final nine minutes before late triples set the final margin at 12.
Dominique Long had 15 points for the Mules, while point guard Widgett Washington added 12 points.
Dixie State plays Pittsburg State on day two of the Challenge beginning at 6:30 p.m. Pacific (7:30 p.m. Mountain).
John Potter is the "Voice of the Red Storm" and an athletic media relation assistant at Dixie State College. Contact him at Potter@dixie.edu.