DU finished the third quarter of their basketball season last night, 3-5. All eight games were against Summit Conference opponents. During that stretch, DU averaged 62.3 points per game while their opponents scored 68.6, a -6.3 margin.
Quarter 3 Evaluation Period: Period: South Dakota State through South Dakota
- DU 59 – South Dakota State 68 (L)
- DU 49 – North Dakota State 75 (L)
- DU 78 – Oral Roberts 75 (W)
- DU 54 – IPFW 65 (L)
- DU 76 – Western Illinois 69 (W)
- DU 61 – IUPUI 76 (L)
- DU 55 – UNO 69 (L)
- DU 66 – South Dakota 52 (W)
As mentioned in a LetsGoDU article yesterday, rebounding has been a big issue for the Pioneers. During the 3rd Quarter, the Pioneers were out rebounded 221 to 191, a -4 rebound differential per game. Surprisingly, this was actually an improvement from a -11.6 differential in 2Q. The Pioneers were also surrendering points in the paint during the 8 game stretch – 180 to 229.
Marcus Byrd led the big men in scoring (10.1 ppg) and rebounds (3.5) per game in 29 minutes per game. During this quarter of the season, C.J. Bobbitt returned to action from illness and shored up rebounding with 3.75 boards per game and 5 ppg in 20.5 minutes of play while he regains his strength. Bobbitt looks to play more center during the stretch run to take advantage of his size and athleticism. Christian Mackey, playing 8.5 minutes per game, is scoring 4.0 points and securing 1.6 rebounds per game. Two-way Duke Douglas played 11.1 minutes per game, delivered 3 points and two boards. 6’11” Daniel Amigo spent only four minutes on the court during 3Q – the first two games.
Rebounding leaders for the Pios are C.J. Bobbit (30), Marcus Byrd (28), Thomas Neff (16), and Duke Douglas (15). The Pioneers remain thin on the front line, which is their achilles heel.
On offense, freshman Joe Rosga led the team in scoring (14.1 ppg) followed by Nate Engesser (9.37 ppg). Rosga continues to play the most minutes of any Pioneer with 33.8 minutes per game and seems to be holding up well to the physical demands of D1 basketball.
Engesser fell to single digit scoring (9.4) in the third quarter versus 13.6 points per game in the second quarter. He played 21.6 minutes per game coming off the bench, but his role has recently shifted to starter and that may continue into the fourth quarter.
Jake Pemberton, coming off a strong second quarter, saw his playing time drop from 35 to 20.5 minutes per game and his scoring average dropped to just 3 points per game. Bryant Rucker matched his second quarter performance with 5.8 points in 17.5 minutes per game and continues to show strong senior leadership on the floor by doing whatever the team needs him to do.
Freshman starter Thomas Neff increased his playing time from 24 minutes per game to 30.7. He also led the team in steals and blocks (+12) during the third quarter. At 6’5″, his defense is solid and he continues to improve his scoring touch by 4 points per game, up to almost 8 ppg. He has been a major contributor on defense and his comfort level on the offensive end is starting to show.
DU has already matched the LetsGoDU’s estimated win total (11 games), established at the beginning of the season, and has a solid chance to significantly exceed expectations. If DU can keep its shooting averages high (+50%), limit turnovers, and improve rebounding with Bobbitt at center and the eventual return of a reinvigorated Daniel Amigo, the Pioneers have a chance to finish the fourth quarter above .500.
However, there are some unanswered questions about this team heading into the final quarter of the season:
- Can DU narrow the rebounding differential and points in the paint?
- Will C.J. Bobbitt continue to improve following his illness and adjust to play at center?
- Can Thomas Neff sustain his recent scoring touch and add an regular scoring threat to DU’s offense?
- With 10 players hitting double digit minutes, will the Pioneers be fresher than some of the other Summit teams during the closing stretch of the season and the Summit League tournament?
- Can Senior Nate Engesser increase his minutes (21.6) and scoring in the fourth quarter and the Summit Tournament? (It will take seniors’ Engesser and Byrd to guide DU to any league tournament wins.)
- Following a down third quarter, can sophomore Jake Pemberton and freshman Jake Holtzman pick up their games.
The third quarter showed that freshmen Rosga, Neff, and Bobbitt can play solid D1 basketball. Still, rebounding remains a lingering issue with this team which can only be resolved with more size next year.