Dixie State University basketball hit the ground running after returning home from a road trip that landed it in the Hawaiian Islands.
Following a 2-1 stint in the Aloha State, the Storm came back to Burns Arena to start a season-long five game home-stand, and it paid dividends in the 84-63 win over Hawaii Pacific University.
“It’s always good to be able to come back home after a long road trip,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “I think we played with an energy and chemistry that I hadn’t seen in a while, and I think the home crowd had something to do with it.”
The crowd, 3,167 strong, gave a warm welcome to Denver Nuggets mascot Rocky for the night. Rocky performed acts during timeouts, including a dunk-show that was only rivaled by sophomore guard Trevor Hill’s first-half slam.
Hill blocked a shot on one end of the floor and then euro-stepped around a Shark defender on his way to a posterizing dunk that gave DSU, and the crowd, a huge boost of energy.
The dunk gave the Storm an early lead that they never relinquished. They led wire-to-wire en route to the 20-point victory and, in DSU fashion, upset the favorited HPU Sharks.
Senior forward Mark Ogden Jr. continued his high level of play by tallying 26 points on 12-17 from the field and pulling in 13 rebounds. Ogden electrified the crowd with a dunk of his own in the second half, this one off of a pass from senior guard Robbie Nielson.
“Now we just need to be consistent and play like this every night,” said Ogden Jr., a business administration major from Spring Valley, California. “Teamwork is a major key.”
Senior guard Mason Sawyer had 16 points in the win, going 4-8 from distance and adding four rebounds and three assists. On Sawyer’s third make from beyond the arc, he moved into sole possession of third place on DSU’s all-time 3-pointers made list (112), behind only DeQuan Thompson (130) and Tom Whitehead (145).
“We have to keep stringing together good practices and keep having fun through the process,” said Sawyer, a psychology major from West Jordan. “Our record isn’t what we hoped it would be at this point, but we understand how much we still have to play for.”
Sophomore guard Brandon Simister kept up his hot shooting from Hawaii. He tacked on 13 points on 3-5 from the filed and 7-7 from the charity stripe.
The Storm, now 7-5 in Pacific West Conference play, 10-8 overall, put themselves in position to control their own destiny down the stretch. The top six teams make the conference tournament, and Saturday’s win moved DSU into a tie for that coveted sixth place.
“We knew it was a big game for us,” Sawyer said. “We tried to make the easy play and didn’t force or rush any shots. It all seemed to click and come together tonight.”
Next up for the Storm is another Saturday night home matchup against a higher ranked PacWest foe, this time against California Baptist University. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. in Burns Arena.