Summit League Semi-Final Preview – DU vs. SDSU

This season, the University of Denver Pioneers (16-14) are 0-2 against the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits (24-7). But tonight’s semifinal game is not the mismatch it appears to be on paper.

DU started their conference season in Brookings, South Dakota on January 1st, dropping a 68-59 decision. South Dakota State killed DU on the offensive boards 12-2 and led for 32 minutes 26 seconds, using big scoring runs to pull away. Denver was led by Marcus Byrd (16 points), Joe Rosga (12 points), and Nate Engesser (11 points). SDSU had balanced scoring with 5 players in double digits. SDSU had 11 turnovers to 19 for the Pioneers. Denver trailed in rebounds 22-29 (-7).

A month later, SDSU rolled into Denver on January 30th and won 67-56. The game was closer than the final score indicated and DU had a great home court crowd. Denver led 47-46 with just under nine minutes left but a pair of foul shots marked the final tie and lead change to put SDSU up 48-47 and sparked a 9-0 SDSU run that ended with the Jacks up 55-47 with 4:33 left, capped by a Jake Bittle 3-pointer. Three Jackrabbits finished in double figures.

Mike Daum led a trio of Jackrabbits in double figures with 15 points and added 7 rebounds. Marshall added 13 points and 6 rebounds, while senior Jake Bittle pitched in with 12 points and a game-high 8 rebounds, as the Jacks finished a devastating plus-14 on the glass, 36-22. G/F Reed Tellinghuisen finished with nine points, with a trio of triples in the win. Joe Rosga and C.J. Bobbitt scored 12 points to lead the Pioneers, with Marcus Byrd adding 11 points in the loss.  DU won the turnover battle 12-8.

The Jacks are a well-coached team that plays fundamental basketball. They exert constant pressure on offense and defense and before you know it, they have the lead and the game in hand. They also have a tendency to go on runs so DU is going to have to rely on stingy defense, limited turnovers, and be sure to reduce the rebound margin in order to limit Jackrabbit possessions.

“I think in terms of what our programs emphasize, they almost couldn’t be more opposite, but they really believe in what they believe in, and we really believe what we believe in, and it almost eats a hole in my stomach every time we play them,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “Just about everything we’ve taught our guys defensively, we have to undo in a two or three day period, and it’s almost the opposite and it’s very frustrating and hard for the players. They’re just very difficult for us to guard.”

In the two matchups, South Dakota State held a +21 rebound advantage, so this is an area DU must address to keep the game close. The Jacks will be starting three seniors against DU’s three freshmen. South Dakota State will have the full support of a local crowd, too. If you look for a Pioneer edge, DU’s deep bench should give the Pioneers a slight advantage. Also, DU’s freshman trio of Joe Rosga, C.J. Bobbitt, Thomas Neff  are no longer playing like freshmen.

DU must stop South Dakota State runs with stingy defense and hold their own on the boards for an upset bid. A rapidly improving Denver squad has closed the gap – but is their progress enough to tilt the balance?

4 thoughts on “Summit League Semi-Final Preview – DU vs. SDSU”

  1. Let’s make SDSU shoot from the outside and hope they have an off night. Long rebounds will ensue which we shall get our share of. Now we slow the tempo down and frustrate the Jackrabbits. Pressure is on SDSU. I like Denver 70-64. If not, it could be SDSU 75 DU 60.

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  2. DU has been much more stingy of late in denying entry passes to the post. Yes, they’re going to get burned on a few, as they did last night with thundering dunks, but Exhibit A was in how they bottled up Jake White.

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  3. The extra rest and ‘home’ court gives SDSU a huge advantage. DU has never been able to stop Daum inside, and to have a shot at beating them, DU is going to have to shoot 55-60% from the field and 45% from the arc, take care of the ball, make what few free throws they get and keep the rebound battle close.

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  4. Yeah, that was what us called a heartbreaker. Storm back to control the game in the second half, see your lead whittled away, game pretty much lost with a few ticks left, but by some miracle we get our best free throw shooter on the line to tie it, or win the game. I feel bad for the kid, especially because he made the awesome play to draw the improbable foul. Those minutes of delay before the free throw probably didn’t help. Shame, DU doesn’t get too many chances like that, another year sitting at home for the dance. Not that it was expected by any stretch of the imagination this season. But you need to take advantage when you’re that close, and when another low seeded team awaits in the conf champ game.

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