Tuesday night, Denver (5-5) faced the South Alabama (6-4) Jaguars in Mobile Alabama. The Pioneers were on the back-end of a brutal 7-game road stretch – and it showed -at least in the first half.
The second half was another story as the Pioneers swept away the Jaguars 64-51.
The first half was a sluggish, sloppy affair and featured poor shooting by both squads and ended 22-26, Southern Alabama. Denver could only muster 22 points on 31.8% field goal shooting and 2-10 from the arc. The Pioneers were out-rebounded on the offensive boards a whopping 11-3 and trailed in total rebounds 24-14. USA shot a lousy 30.0% for the half, allowing the Pioneers to remain in the contest. C.J. Bobbitt kept DU close with his 8 points and 2 rebounds in the half. Both teams coughed up the ball 7 times.
Denver started the contest with a 9-7 lead in the first 5 minutes on a pair of buckets and two free throws from C.J. Bobbitt. At 10:59 the teams were knotted at 12 when Daniel Amigo picked up his second foul. The Jag’s 6’7″ senior forward Georgi Boyanov’s aggressive play had the Pioneers on their heels with 3 of 4 from the field and 7 rebounds in the first 20 minutes. DU had 4 turnovers in the first 10 minutes and 7 for the half – an ongoing issue for this year’s squad. At 8:03, the Jaguars took their first lead 15-14 on a bucket by Nick Stover. Denver led 21-20 at 2:50 with a nifty Joe Rosga left handed layup in traffic – but the Jaguars owned the rest of the first half with Boyanov scoring 5 points in the final 1:06 to extend the Jaguar lead to 26-22.
Assistant coach Dan Ficke said that there was a spirited discussion at halftime – focusing on rebounds (too few) and turnovers (too many). The Pioneers responded with a dominant second 20 minutes to put their stamp on the game.
Denver came out of the locker room on fire and took a quick 3-point lead, 31-28, on two buckets by Amigo, one from Bobbitt, and a 3-point bomb from Thomas Neff. But, Amigo picked up foul #3 at 17:17 -Rodney Billups kept him in the game. At 13:01 to go, Denver slipped out to a 41-35 advantage on a Jake Krafka jumper. At 7:48, Denver took a 48-41 lead on a Joe Rosga layup coming out of a timeout. At 6:25, another Joe Rosga 3-pointer extended the Pio lead to 11, 52-41. At 4:57 Daniel Amigo picked up foul #4 but he stayed in the game and continued to play effectively. A Duke Douglas rebound and South Alabama foul led to two more free throws and a 12 point advantage for the Pioneers. Abiola Akintola showed great hustle in the final 5-minutes and Joe Rosga took over the contest with hot shooting and made free throws. At that point, it turned into a foul-fest with a final score 64-51, Denver.
The Pioneers shot 50% from the field for the game on a red-hot second half and Joe Rosga led the Pioneers with 25 points. Daniel Amigo chipped in with 11 points (all in the second half) and 9 rebounds while working around foul trouble to finish the contest. South Alabama shot a frigid 31.5% from the field and an arctic 2-22 from downtown.
Said Billups, “I’m proud of our guys. We need to figure out what went on in the first half. We are making these games more hard than we should. Our guys played real well in the second half. The strength of our team is our team (depth).”
Sitting at .500 with no seniors and 8 of 10 games on the road, this year’s squad continues to defy early season expectations.