UNO (15-10) returned home to Baxter Arena to face the Denver Pioneers. The Pioneers (13-11) dominated the boards (39-25), outscored the Omaha bench by 23 points, and overcame the second half loss of Joe Rosga and 18 turnovers for the big road win. The Pioneers were tied twice by the Mavericks who shut down a 16 point second half deficit – but DU never trailed.
Joe Rosga and Marcus Byrd got first blood scoring the first three possessions to make it 6 -0 Pioneer lead. UNO closed the gap to 3, 10-7, at 15:00 minute mark. At the 12:30 mark, the teams had their first tie at 14 each. A DU push over the next five minutes, highlighted by a 3 by Nate Engesser, took the Pio score up to 20-14. Once inserted in the game, Christian Mackey started to do damage inside with 4 quick rebounds. DU showed greater aggressiveness inside with 9 rebounds by the 7:55 mark and forcing the Mavs into fouls on drives to the hoop. A Byrd bomb and Duke Douglas jam moved DU’s lead to 9 – 27-16. DU held a six point lead, 27-21, at 5:00. DU, despite shooting just 35.7% from the field, nearly 10% less than Omaha, led 35-31 at half time – mainly due to the rebound advantage. C.J. Bobbitt with 9 points and Marcus Byrd with 8 points and 6 rebounds led the Pio’s. Christian Mackey chipped in with 6 points and 4 rebounds. A 21-11 rebound advantage in the first half was a reversal of the first half of the Pioneers last game against IUPUI.
To start the second half, Joe Rosga was out of the game and would not reenter the entire second half – no word on his illness and/or injury. Bryant Rucker started the second half in his place. Marcus Byrd fell into early foul trouble with three fouls and C.J. Bobbitt picked up his third foul as well. DU was hit with a quick 6 second half foul calls by the 18:00 minute mark which put UNO at the line for the rest of the game. DU countered each UNO run with a run of their own. A big Thomas Neff 3 point bomb at 15:00 minutes put DU up 42-37. Neff’s blast was followed by a Pemberton drive to the bucket – and DU’s lead grew to 10. Then, another Engesser three took the lead up to 13, 51-38, at 13:00 minute mark. UNO followed with a missed point blank dunk – their third such miss of the game. DU continued their run when Rucker was fouled on a three point shot and hit 3 free throws for a 15 point lead. Shortly after that, DU’s lead ballooned to 16 points. DU held a 58-45 lead at the 10 minute mark. Then, Omaha made short runs to whittle down DU’s lead on ball pressure and turnovers. Still, DU countered and led by 9 at the 5:00 minute mark. UNO narrowed the DU lead to 68-65 at the 3:00 minute mark. Finally, UNO tied it up, 68 all, with 1:44 to go. Just like Thursday’s IUPUI game, freshman Thomas Neff stepped up and hit a HUGE 3 point shot to put DU up by three – but UNO’s Patterson responded with a bucket. With a 1-point lead with 35 seconds to go, Duke Douglas missed his shot but recovered his own rebound – DU got a timeout. On the inbound play, Douglas again drove to the hoop for 2 critical points. A Byrd foul on the other end, his 5th, put Patterson at the line for 2 points and a narrow 73-72 DU lead. With 18 seconds remaining, DU in-bounded the ball which found its way to Christian Mackey. Mackey was fouled and colmly nailed 2 big free throws to maintain a 3 point margin for Denver. UNO could not convert a three point shot in the waning seconds, Denver wins 75-72.
Another great effort by the Pioneers with continued emphasis on rebounding, led by Christian Mackey’s 9 boards. With Mackey, Douglas, Bobbitt, and Byrd hitting the boards, the Pioneers have a much greater margin for error. With a solid rebounding advantage and timely shooting, they were able to overcome an 18-9 turnover deficit and still hang on for the win. Also, Coach Scott playing to the depth of the team, was able to replace the loss of Joe Rosga in the second half with solid bench play from Bryant Rucker, Duck Douglas, and Christian Mackey. Another impressive win for DU men’s hoops.