Cowpokes’ strong first half sinks Pioneers 82-70

Early turnovers put the Pioneers at a 16 point halftime deficit and they could never recover, falling to Wyoming in Laramie last night. The stat line was relatively even with the exception of turnovers and free throws. The Pioneers gave the ball away 19 times compared to 10 for Wyoming with 14 of those Pioneer giveaways in the first half. Also, the Cowboys went to the line 25 times to DU’s 15. Wyoming’s bench delivered a whopping 45 points, which accounted for more than half of Wyoming’s tallies. However, as DU has done in most of their contests this season, they actually won the rebound battle 41 (11-30) vs. the Pokes 34 (7-27).

“I would like to compliment coach Billups and the job that he has done there,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “I thought we played a tremendous first half. Denver is a group of fighters and they came out and competed in the second half. The two things we talked about this week is taking care of the basketball and shooting free throws and we did both of those things tonight.” They did both and DU did not.

DU continues to be challenged by big teams with athletic guards and size up front. Wyoming showed the Pioneers both. A huge Wyoming squad has 7 players taller than 6’6″.

In the first half, C.J. Bobbit, Thomas Neff, Joe Rosga, Daniel Amigo, and Jake Pemberton started for Denver. In the first five minutes, Denver held close on a Krafka jumper, 6 to 10, but committed 4 turnovers. Denver fell behind, 13-23, in the next five minutes with Wyoming foul shots, close range buckets, and two three-point buckets. With five minutes remaining in the first half, the Pioneers trailed 22-37 as the teams traded punches to halftime – DU trailed 30-46 with 14 of their eventual 19 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game and a miserable 3 of 11 from downtown. The Cowboys outscored the DU bench 22-9.

DU started in a better rhythm in the second half, highlighted by a Joe Rosga steal at 16:44 and bucket. At the 15:00 mark, Mackey got a layup to pull within 12, 39-51. At the mid-point of the second half, DU trailed 48-61 – unable to move the margin to single digits. The teams traded points most of the half when Denver narrowed the Pokes lead with two Mackey free throws to make the score 62-71, a 9-point margin. A free throw from C.J. Bobbit at 2:50 made it 63-71, the narrowest margin of the second half. But Wyoming held off the Pioneer surge and kept a safe margin until the final minute when Cowboy free throws extended the advantage to double digits and a 70-82 final. The Pioneers battled even-up the second half but a turnover-plagued first half spelled their fate.

Joe Rosga led DU with 16 points and Daniel Amigo and Christian Mackey had 10 apiece. Christian Mackey and Joe Rosga led the Pios with 7 rebounds each. Wyoming guard Justin James led the Pokes with 21 points. Forward Hayden Dalton led everyone with 8 rebounds.  Daniel Amigo ended with 4 fouls – a problem for DU with a lack of depth up front.

Playing fast is leading to more turnovers as the players adapt to the faster playing style. Also, the team’s lack of depth is exposed when Christian Mackey and Daniel Amigo get into foul trouble. It will take some time, patience, and recruiting to address all of these issues.

The Pioneers dropped to 2-4 on the year while the Cowboys moved to 4-2. Denver’s next game is against Weber State on Saturday, December 3rd in Ogden, Utah @ 7:00PM MT.