ST. GEORGE – With a name like Papenfuss, he’s got to be good.
“Curtis is probably the purest shooter on our squad,” said teammate Zach Robbins. “His performance tonight is not really surprising to any of us.”
Papenfuss was 7 for 7 from the floor, including two from beyond the arc, for a total of 16 points. He added six rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers.
The Sunbirds were short-handed, only dressing six men for the game. Playing a team with virtually no bench, the Reds Storm smelled blood.
“We had heard that they had some injured players and eligibility issues,” Robbins said. “We took advantage and pushed the ball and kept our guys fresh.”
The Red Storm jumped out quickly, outscoring the Sunbirds 17-5 over the first seven minutes. Robbie Nielson, starting his second game for an injured Dalton Groskreutz, and DeQuan Thompson both chipped in five during the run. FPU tried to keep pace, cutting the lead to single-digits twice before Dixie went on a 12-5 run to close out the half to go up by 16, 47-31.
Robbins and Thompson led the Red Storm with 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the first half. DSU shot 51 percent from the floor, and a whopping 71 percent from the arc, while holding FPU to 35 percent shooting.
“They were not only short-handed, but also undersized, so we went into Zach early and often,” said Papenfuss. “Zach is good at recognizing the double-team and getting the wings open looks.”
The Sunbirds were able to match Dixie basket for basket for the first six minutes of the second half. The Red Storm then scored 10 straight points behind five points each from Papenfuss and Louis Garrett and, with 10:56 to play, held their largest lead, 72-44.
“We saw that they started putting their hands on knees,” Papenfuss said. “We knew they were tired.”
The Red Storm outscored FPU 14-0 on fast break points. Dixie also held the edge in rebounds 50-35.
Coach Jon Judkins played his bench liberally from that point and the reserves kept pace against FPU, even as the Sunbirds continued their full-court pressure late in the game, to close out with a 24-point win, 85-61.
“We have put together two good defensive games,” Judkins said. “We were able to rest Dalton (Groskreutz) and get others back from injury. Louis (Garrett) is not 100 percent yet, but is playing well. Hopefully by Saturday we will be back at full strength.”
On Saturday, the Red Storm face California Baptist in the battle for the Pacific West Conference lead. It also features a match-up between two nationally-ranked teams. Dixie State is currently ranked seventh while undefeated California Baptist squeaked into the rankings for the first time last week at No. 25.
“They are a good team,” Judkins said. “But so are we. It will be quite an accomplishment to go in there and beat them on their homecourt.”
For the game, the Sunbirds Malcolm Griffin led all scorers with 22 points. Trevon Clayton had 11 points and nine rebounds. Josh Mason and Johnell Thompson scored 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Robbins had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Also scoring in double-figures were Papenfuss (16), Thompson (14), Garrett (13) and Payne (11).
The Red Storm go to 13-1 overall and 7-1 in Pac West action. Their game Saturday night is in Cal Baptist’s Van Dyne Gymnasium in Riverside, Calif., at 8:30 MDT.
The Sunbirds fall to 5-10 and remain winless in the conference at 0-7.
Stats: DSU 85, FPU 61
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