Balanced Effort lifts the Pioneers over the Golden Eagles, 77-73

Denver (9-5, 1-0) raced out to a 28 – 40 lead at halftime and held on for a 77-73 win to open Summit League Play against Oral Roberts (4-11, 0-1). DU extended their winning streak to 6 games.

It was surprise starter Christian Mackey who powered the Pioneers with 8 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists in the first half. The Pioneers played a clean opening frame with only 5 turnovers and solid shooting (48.5%). Jake Pemberton filled up the stat sheet, too, with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the first half alone. While the Golden Eagles never led in the first half, their sharpshooter Kris Martin, was hitting 3’s to bring the Golden Eagles within five points of DU at the 2:36 minute mark of the first half. But layups from Christian Mackey, Jake Pemberton, and Joe Rosga broke open the half to give the Pioneers a 12 point halftime advantage. 

As expected, the Golden Eagles took a run at DU during the second half. ORU chipped away and at the 10:19 mark, DU’s margin collapsed, under turnovers and cold shooting, to a slim 49 -51 lead. A three point play by Daniel Amigo created some breathing room along with back-to-back buckets by Duke Douglas and Jake Krafka which extended DU’s margin to 10 points, 49-59. Oral Roberts started to press and foul but missed free throws by the Pioneers and two 3-point bombs by Chris Martin pulled ORU to within 3 points, 66-69, with 1:49 to go. DU countered with a jump shot from Amigo and a layup from Rosga to extend DU’s lead. A Joe Rosga free throw with :25 seconds to go gave DU a 5 point lead and a defensive rebound by Daniel Amigo and a Jake Pemberton layup sealed the game.

DU looked to have a relatively easy second half but ORU got back into the game behind their 3-guard tandem of Kris Martin (9 points, 2H), Jalen Bradley (8 points, 2H), and Aaron Anderson (8 points 2H) – but their efforts were thwarted by DU’s Thomas Neff (10 points 2H) and Daniel Amigo (12 points 2H).

Denver played 10 players deep and shot 46% from the field, 50% from the arc, and a rather pedestrian 59.1% (13-22) from the free throw line. DU won the rebounding battle, 40-37, against a big ORU squad. Feshman Jake Krafka had a solid contest with 9 points and 6 rebounds. DU had one of their best games of the season with only 10 turnovers, the target set by coach Rodney Billups.

After the game, coach Billups said, “That team (ORU) is a lot better than their record. We beat a good team. They are going to surprise some people. A lot of room to grow. Defensively, we can’t control three point shots – we can control our effort and pursue rebounds. We rely on different people every night.”

7 thoughts on “Balanced Effort lifts the Pioneers over the Golden Eagles, 77-73”

  1. I’ll take a conference win any way I can get it, and I agree Oral Roberts is better than their record indicates.

    Any ideas why Amigo didn’t play for the first 1/4 of the game?

    I was really pulling for Mackey to get that double-double but he just didn’t have the size needed to consistently get it done down low. Great first half for him though.

    South Dakota at home next week should be a win, but I’m interested to see how the Coyotes do against Omaha tomorrow, they will probably be favored.


    1. Not sure why Amigo was out the first ten minutes. The team will not answer a question like that – it is either for a minor team rule violation or strategic – keep him out for the first 10 minutes to avoid foul trouble later. Either way, not a bad strategy – especially if it gets Christian Mackey going like that.

      And you are right – a conference win is a big deal. As for Omaha, it will be interesting to see how they do against SD. They can sure score the ball but can they defend? That will be the question for he Mavs all season long.


  2. This was a solid performance against a much better ORU team than the record would indicate, as the Golden Eagles have played the best non-league schedule in the Summit. ORU also has some really nice components to their team – a deadly three point guy, strong inside depth in the paint and some very well coached ball movement. They may be a strong factor in the league race as the season moves forward.

    The Pioneers also showed how depth is really the core of the team. With 10 guys moving in and out of the lineup, it really puts pressure on opponents to work hard, especially at altitude. It was also interesting to see who Billups was leaning on in the final minutes, and a surprise to me was seeing Krafka out there late in the game. As a 6-7 shooter who can rebound and pass, he’s a nice developing addition to the team.

    Also good to see Bradley George capably filling in for Rosga at times, Mackey’s great first half filling in for Amigo.

    DU did a better job with turnovers last night, but what really haunted the Pios was terrible free throw shooting. I may be an old school fan, but no team at a D-I level should be giving away free points by shooting less than 80% at the line. DU missed a lot of free throws down the stretch last night, and that kept ORU closer than it should have been. If I am Rodney, I would have these guys working hard on free throws in practice and encourage the guys to shoot a couple hundred more on their own every day. A good free throw shooting team can be a real difference maker that does not require height, athleticsm or complexity to master.


  3. The free throws definitely bother me too. It seems pretty obvious that by the end of the game they’re so gassed that their free throws just aren’t as smooth and often clank out. For example last night they were 8/10 in the first 32 minutes and 5/12 in the last 8 minutes. In the UNC game, 4 of their 5 misses were in the final 7 minutes, etc. You’ve got to get to a point where no matter how exhausted you are, the motion is just automatic. Easier said than done of course…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A couple thoughts on the Summit…

    South Dakota beat Omaha soundly on Thursday and just lost at SDSU 73-72 on a last second shot, that game on Wednesday against the Coyotes will be a tough battle.

    Second, is Western Illinois’ win at Fort Wayne the biggest upset in Summit League conference play history? WIU was given only a 7% chance of winning the game by kenpom. Now, it was a flukey win, they made 18 three pointers, but a win is a win and that was just a shocking upset.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – I missed the Fort Wayne result. Looks like every game will be a battle in the Summit League this season. Looking forward to the South Dakota game – surprised by Omahas effort – poor.


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