ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Azusa Pacific knew it needed to play its best game of the year if it wanted to go on the road and beat No. 7-ranked Dixie State. Instead, it was the four-time defending Pacific West Conference champions who put together a flawless performance, as the Red Storm opened up a huge early lead in an 87-63 win over the Cougars Saturday night.
Dixie State jumped out to a 25-point halftime lead, hitting eight-of-11 first-half three-pointers while holding the Cougars without a field goal during one stretch of almost eight minutes midway through the half. During the first nine minutes of the game, the Red Storm knocked down seven of their first eight from long range, including five consecutive (and six total) treys during a 30-8 run that turned a 10-7 DSU lead into a 40-15 margin with six minutes left in the half.
DeQuan Thompson finished off the run with a three, capping a 14-point first half in which he was a perfect four-for-four half from beyond the arc.
“Their start to the game exposed some basic fundamental mistakes on our defensive principles, and those mistakes all led to their first four three-pointers,” Azusa Pacific head coach Justin Leslie said. “If you allow a team to make that many three-pointers against you, it allows them to play downhill. It was an avalanche from there.”
Junior guard Troy Leaf was Azusa Pacific’s only double-digit scorer, tallying 18 points on a night when the Cougars shot just 36 percent (21-for-59) as a team. Sophomore forward Jared Zoller added 13 points on four-of-six shooting, but Dixie State big men Zach Robbins and Jordan Rex each posted double-doubles to lead the Red Storm to a dominant performance on the boards. Robbins finished with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, while Rex added 12 points and 11 rebounds to lead Dixie to a 45-28 advantage, the widest rebounding margin against the Cougars all year.
Thompson finished with 16, sharing the team scoring lead with Robbins and Mason Sawyer, who hit a pair of three-pointers in his 16-point effort.
Dixie State led by as many as 37 points (75-38) midway through the second half before the Cougars finished the game with 25 points in the final 10 minutes.
“The greatest positive from this is that we got to see up close and personal the level to which we need to hold ourselves accountable on a daily basis,” Leslie said. “There’s a lot more work ahead of us, but we get to go out and play again Tuesday with a chance to put together something positive against Dominican.”
With the loss, Azusa Pacific’s four-game winning streak is snapped, and the Cougars fall to 7-5 overall and 3-3 in Pacific West Conference play heading into Tuesday’s matchup at home with Dominican. Dixie State, which had a season-opening 11-game winning streak snapped Monday at Hawai‘i Pacific, gets back into the win column to improve to 12-1 overall and 6-1 in the PacWest.