Basketball has started, and the Dixie State College men’s team has high expectations for this season.
The DSC men’s basketball team has accomplished a task that not many other teams can, and that’s being the best team in its region—three consecutive times.
“Our goal as a team is to repeat as PacWest champs,” said senior forward Derek Owen, a biology major from St. George. “We’ve been three times so far, and that’s something we want to do again.”
Junior guard Kimball Payne, a business administration major from Alpine, said the team is working to take the Pacific West Conference Championship for the fourth time and also plans to go to the NCAA Tournament.
“Each one of these wins counts to the NCAA tournament, so we have to keep winning all of these games—even from the beginning,” Payne said.
The team is on the road this week and will face Montana State University-Billings Friday at 7 p.m.
The Yellowjackets have played three games so far, and they have won every game by double digits.
Owen said MSUB has always been a quick team, and DSC is going to work on making adjustments to speed in practice this week.
“We just need to execute and play smarter defense,” Owen said. “We need to talk a lot better. Coach calls us the librarian team because we’re all super, super quiet. We are all smart kids, but we don’t communicate to each other—that’s something we can work on.”
Payne said it’s tough playing up in Montana because it’s so far away, but if the team focuses in practice and gets prepared, then the team should come home with the win.
The Red Storm are 2-1 so far with an overtime loss by one to University of Nevada-Las Vegas. They just finished the Dixie State Classic with two wins against University of California-San Diego and Colorado Mesa University.
Dixie State came back and pulled off a win Friday night to UCSD 71-67.
“It was too close—closer than we wanted, but we got the win,” Payne said. “We were just getting back from the UNLV game, and a lot of our guys were sore.”
DSC struggled the first half with missed shots and multiple turnovers that gave the Tritons a quick 12-0 run. The Red Storm then came to life within the next four minutes and responded with a 13-2 run, with the help of Payne and junior forward Curtis Papenfuss, that gave DSC the lead at the end of the half 34-27.
Dixie came out the second half struggling once again when UCSD’s freshman guard Drew Dyer and senior forward Justin Brue went on an 11-0 spurt that put the Tritons in the lead 55-43 with 11:39 left in the game.
DSC came back fighting when Owen, with 12 points; sophomore guard DeQuan Thompson, with 10 points; and junior forward Dalton Groskreutz, with 17 points, led the team in a 71-67 victory.
The second game, against Colorado Mesa, went differently for DSC.
Senior guard McKay Massey was nine for 12 from the field with 22 points that helped the Red Storm soar to a 77-65 victory.
“I always know where Mac is on the court because I know he’ll knock it down,” Payne said.
The Red Storm once again walked into the locker room tied up at 36 at halftime.
“We need to learn to play better in the first half,” Payne said. “It’s always too close and then the second half we really turn it on.”
Dixie State took over with 11:43 left in the game. Payne, Massey, Thompson and sophomore center Zach Robbins took control of the game and went on a 14-0 unstoppable run that took the lead far from close.
Massey had a career-high of eight assists, and Payne also had a career-high of nine.
“It was a great game,” Owen said. “I’m proud of our boys, and it was fun.”
Owen said the second half showed what the Red Storm are capable of.
“We played together as a team, and that’s what we like,” Owen said. “It’s something we work on in practice, and we just came out and showed that we can play as a team.”
DSC kept the lead to no fewer than 10 points and ended the game with the 77-65 win.
The Red Storm play Friday in Montana against Montana State University-Billings at 7 p.m.