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.”