Photo: With a winter storm lashing Denver, the Pioneers never seemed to warm up in their loss Wednesday night to South Dakota at Magness Arena.
South Dakota (11-7, 2-1) controlled the tempo and the lead and earned a 75-69 victory at Magness Arena. The Pioneers (9-6, 1-1) could never put together a run on either the defensive or offensive end of the court and the Coyotes made them pay. Sharpshooter Matt Mooney hammered the Pioneers with 23 points, 4-7 from downtown, and Trey Burch-Manning pulled down 12 rebounds.
The Pioneers could only manage 5 made three-point shots the entire game. To make matters worse, Daniel Amigo picked up two quick fouls and sat most of the first half. He picked up a questionable third foul 3 minutes (17:17) into the second half and never seemed to get into a rhythm. Joe Rosga finished with 14 points followed by Daniel Amigo with 13. Jake Pemberton had 5 steals.
Rodney Billups expressed it best after the game when he said, “It was back and forth but it felt like we were down 20.” It felt that way – even though Denver was within striking distance all night long.
The first half ended 34-37 – Coyotes. DU shot just 42.4% from the floor and 27.3% from the arc. The teams played even the first 10 minutes and then, South Dakota began to pull away. Free throws by Trey Dickerson at 7:36 extended the visitors lead to 7 points, 27-20. A layup by Abiola Akintoa, a 3 point shot from Joe Rosga and a layup by C.J. Bobbitt closed the gap to 2 points but a 3-minute dry spell by the Pioneers handed the visitors a 7 point lead at 4:30 following a Matt Mooney bucket. The Pioneers pulled back within reach over the next several minutes. At 1:43 Ade Murkey tied the game at 43-43 but South Dakota finished the half with a Matt Mooney 3-point shot to give the guests a 46-43 lead at intermission.
The second half was more of the same as DU could never create a run. The teams traded buckets for the next 15 minutes with no team taking more than a 4 point advantage. South Dakota led 64-63 following two Joe Rosga free throws at 2:59. A layup by Daniel Amigo at 2:16 gave DU their final lead 65-64. But, DU would never score again. South Dakota extended their advantage during the Denver drought to 7 points – 72-65 with 19 seconds to go and the game was over.
Overall, South Dakota shut down DU’s perimeter shooting and clogged the lanes, contesting every shot. Then, on the offensive end, they used screens and ball movement to create open looks (45.8 FG/47.4 3-PT). Denver appeared slow, especially in the first half as the Coyotes drove to the hoop early in transition. And with Amigo on the bench, DU had to try various combinations on the floor to counteract South Dakota. All these factors made it feel that DU never could gain control of the contest.
After the game, Coach Billups said, “They dictated everything – we played the way they wanted to play. I thought we had some selfishness tonight. We have to start (playing hard) from the tip-off.”