Pios Beat San Jose State, 74-69, for Rodney Billups’ first career victory

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The Pioneers gave coach Rodney Billups the game ball after his first win as a college head coach. Photo: University of Denver

The Denver Pioneers shot an excellent 56% on the road, and including a blistering 9 for 10 from the field in the final ten minutes of the game to hold off a determined San Jose State Spartan team at the San Jose (Calif.) Events Center, 74-69.  The win, which was close for the duration, was Rodney Billups’ first career win as the Pioneers’ head coach. The victory was clinched by a pair of Thomas Neff free throws in the final two seconds, as SJSU had cut the DU lead to three points with 1:13 left.

Denver leveled its season record at 1-1, while SJSU from the Mountain West Conference, fell to 1-2 on the young season.

While the Pioneers blew out San Jose in shooting percentage (56% to 40%) and rebounding (36-26), the game was close all the way (never more than a eight point differential either way) due to the Pioneers’ propensity to give up turnovers, as DU gave away 21 balls, while the Spartans only gave away 13 on the night. For a Pioneer team learning to play a fast, new style of basketball this year, turnovers will likely be a part of the Pioneers’ identity for the foreseeable future as the players adjust to the new style.

Super Sophomore Joe Rosga led the Pioneers with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half.  The Pios were also able to get a clutch bench performance from redshirt junior Duke Douglas, who had a career high 12 points, including 5-5 from the field, a dunk with 6:40 left which sent the Pioneers on the clutch shooting tear down the stretch, and a big steal in the final moments. Junior Jake Pemberton helped steady the backcourt with a solid 10-point outing, and Australian Abiola Akintola chipped in with six points in his first-ever Pioneer action.

DU’s Christian Mackey had the go-ahead basket for DU with 8:17 left in the game and had a total of six points filling the lane when starting center Daniel Amigo (7 points) ran into foul trouble and had to sit for large chunks of the game. Jake Krafka (4 points) and Brad George (2 points) also cracked the scoresheet for the Pios for the first time in their careers.

The Pioneers return from California to face Utah Valley University of the WAC on Wednesday,  Nov. 23 at Magness Arena.