Denver (10-8) got off to their best first half of the season and held off a second half charge from Western Illinois (7-8) for a confidence-building 76-69 road victory on Thursday night in Macomb, Illinois. Denver streaked out to a 39-21 first half lead and comfortably fought off a second half push by the Leathernecks for the win. Freshman Thomas Neff and Senior Nate Engesser started the game with three point buckets and the first half rout was on. Duke Douglas, an unexpected hero, was everywhere for DU with 10 points and 6 defensive rebounds. Nate Engesser, getting his first start, led the team with 14 points. It was all 11’s for Marcus Byrd, Bryant Rucker, and super freshman Joe Rosga. The Pioneers bench outscored the Western Illinois bench 28-18. DU’s biggest player, Daniel Amigo was MIA for game -number three for the crimson and gold.
Denver, reeling from 5 losses in their last 6 games, secured their first Summit Conference road victory of the season. Denver pushed Western Illinois losing skid to six games. The Fighting Leathernecks, overpowered in the first half, mounted an unsuccessful comeback, led by their scoring duo – junior guard Garrett Covington who finishing with 16 points and senior guard J.C. Fuller who finished with 17 points. The Leatherneck big man, 6’9″ senior forward Tate Stensgaard, led all players with 8 rebounds. The Pioneers, trailing in rebounds all season, held the margin close with 28 rebounds versus 33 for the Leathernecks.
The difference in the game was the Pioneers hot shooting from the 3-point arc 9-16 (60%) and the field 27-50 (54%) which was all the Pios needed for the win. Denver had 8 players with double digit minutes, including freshmen Joe Rosga, C.J. Bobbitt, and Thomas Neff. Seniors Nate Engesser, Bryant Rucker, and Marcus Byrd showed strong senior leadership on the floor, especially in the second half when Western Illinois started to make their push.
The Pioneers can even up their Summit League record (2-3) Saturday against IUPUI in Indianapolis.