When Wednesday night’s game started, the big question was how would DU (9-7) respond coming off a 4-game skid. Were they ready to get back to the basics that led them to a host of early season victories? And, could they offset the inevitable rebound disadvantage? For Oral Roberts (8-9), could they adjust to the loss of their Summit pre-season player of the year, Obi Emegano, who missed the game with a concussion.
DU responded on all counts with a complete team victory tonight, leading ORU nearly the entire game. Late-stage drama occurred in the final 3 minutes of the game as Oral Roberts began to exchange deadly three point shots while DU was nearly flawless at the foul line, narrowing the game to an uncomfortable 1 point margin in the waning seconds. A desperation shot at the buzzer by the Golden Eagles caromed off the rim to give the Pioneers the 3-point win.
The back-story was Daniel Amigo. He was not suited up for the game and was not on the bench. Reliable sources advised that Amigo was suspended for one game for violating team rules. The team rallied around each other in his absence and coaches and players looked united and motivated in huddles and breaks. Instead of splintering following the 4-game skid, veterans and freshmen alike pulled together to secure the home win against the pre-season Summit 3-pick.
DU held ORU scoreless for the first five minutes and led early 13-4, shooting 3 for 6 from the 3-point arc. ORU closed the gap during the middle of the session and took the lead at 17 to 16 but DU took the lead back despite trailing in rebounds at the time, 8-15. The score remained close the balance of the first half. Freshman Thomas Neff had a breakthrough game with key buckets and a strong first half. His 3 point shot before halftime cemented DU’s lead at 30-26.
DU came out strong in the second half, too, and held a comfortable 10 point lead at the 11:00 minute mark. DU shot around 50% from both the three point arc and the field which has been the Pioneers winning formula all season. However, once behind by a significant margin, ORU started pressing DU’s full court at the 6:00 minute mark, trailing by 13 points. While ORU was not stealing inbound passes, they began canning trays, a sizzling 7 of 8 threes by Aaron Young, in exchange for two’s from DU – mostly free throws. The lead quickly fell to 4 points. Nate Engesser went to the line to take DU’s advantage back to six. Then, Aaron Young sunk his 8th 3-pointer to take it to three. Engesser made 1 of 2 free throws to take DU’s margin to 4 but a 3-point ORU bomb took what once was a comfortable margin and whittled it to the thinnest of margins at 5 seconds. Then, a fast break inbound pass to Pemberton who made a layup upped the Pio’s lead back to three in the waning seconds. ORU’s desperation three point shot hit the rim but missed net. Final score 78-75 DU.
Do it all Freshman Joe Rosga led the team in scoring with 17 points in 40 minutes. Senior Nate Engesser chipped in 15 points. Freshman Thomas Neff scored most of his 13 points in the first half and Marcus Byrd contributed 10 points to the winning cause.
ORU’s hot shooting guard Aaron Young scored a game high 29 points and center Albert Owens had 19 points and 7 rebounds for the visitors.
How did the Pioneers overcome a 19-32 rebound disadvantage? They shot 50% from the field and 3-point land, caused turnovers 20-9 and led in steals 7-5. Seven players played double-digit minutes, including the three freshmen Joe Rosga, Thomas Neff, and C.J. Bobbitt.
A well deserved win for the Pioneers.