As the Dixie State University men’s basketball team glanced at the scoreboard, the clock read .7 seconds left in the game, and the score showed Dixie State leading 71-70.
Division I opponent University of Nevada, Las Vegas had possession of the ball. The Rebels passed the ball to the top of the key for the game-winning shot. Senior guard Kimball Payne played the defense perfectly, contesting the shot and getting a hand on the ball as UNLV’s junior guard Deville Smith took the final shot of the game.
The entire crowd of 12,076 was shocked as the buzzer sounded. The Red Storm had upset a Division I team.
“Defensively, on that last play, (the team) did exactly what I wanted (it) to do,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “We said, ‘Make (UNLV) take a tough shot with a hand in the face.’”
DSU finished the game with a one-point victory at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Red Storm lost by one point in overtime, 80-81, last year in Las Vegas.
The game was an exhibition and, therefore, does not affect either team’s records for the season.
“We won this game because we played extremely hard,” Judkins said. “I was very happy with how hard we played. I thought we made some really dumb mistakes, and we gave (UNLV) way too many offensive rebounds, but (we) battled. We did some really good things.”
The DSU coaches and players were excited about the team effort and the win, even if it didn’t count toward the season. The Red Storm didn’t seem as shocked or surprised by the upset victory over a Division I opponent as the crowd.
“(Payne) came up to me afterwards and he said, ‘We needed that more than you know,’” Judkins said. “I said, ‘We needed that as much as you guys did.’ If (our guys) think they can play with people, I think we’re pretty good.”
Senior forward Dalton Groskreutz led all scorers with 20 points. He made eight of 11 shots and was a perfect three for three from behind the arc.
“It was good for us to have the opportunity to play a team that is as talented as UNLV,” said Groskreutz, a communication major from Santa Clara. “It gives us a feel for where we are at. Coach gave a lot of guys the opportunity to play and the opportunity for us to play together.”
Athletic Director Jason Boothe said the Thomas & Mack Center will be the biggest and loudest environment DSU will play in this season. The noise didn’t seem to affect the players as the team made nine of 13 free throws in the game.
“I thought tonight we didn’t come out scared like we did last year,” Judkins said. “We were a lot more relaxed.”
Groskreutz explained how the team hung with UNLV and came away with a win.
“I don’t think it matters who we’re playing,” Groskreutz said. “Whether it’s a really good team in Division II or it’s a really good team in Division I, there’s a lot of guys in the locker room that want to win. That starts with coach Judkins. He wants to win games, and it just trickles down to the team. When we came into the game, we had a feeling that we play to win, and that was the expectation we gave ourselves when we came in.”
DSU will officially begin its season Friday against Colorado Mesa University at 7:30 p.m. at the Burns Arena.
“We go to practice, and we want to have an intense practice,” Groskreutz said. “We want to improve every day (and) be better than we were yesterday. That’s what coach Judkins says. We treat each game like it’s a big game.”