All five Denver (10-7, 2-2) starters were in double figures and Western Illinois’ (6-10, 3-2) leading scorer Garret Covington was held to only 17 points as the Denver Pioneers used a second half surge to bury the Leathernecks.
Denver followed all the coaches’ keys to win the game – holding Western Illinois to only 70 points, holding the Leathernecks to 36.5% on FG shots, winning the rebounding battle 36-29, and turning over the ball only 12 times. Joe Rosga rocked the stat sheet with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists and fueled Denver’s second half surge. Daniel Amigo had 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists. Daniel Amigo committed only one personal foul, his lowest foul total of the season, and neutralized Western’s big man – 6’11” Brandon Gilbeck.
The game started slowly with the teams trading punches. Denver led 10-8 five minutes into the game. Layups by Christian Mackey, Thomas Neff, and C.J. Bobbitt highlighted the next five minutes as DU moved out to a 24-15 advantage. A pair of 3-point shots by Jeremiah Useosefe and a 3-point play by Garrett Covington closed Denver’s advantage to 34-30 at the 5 minute mark. Lay-ups by Joe Rosga and Daniel Amigo gave Denver a 43-37 lead with :16 seconds left in the first half. That score held.
In the first five minutes of the second half, Denver turned the ball over three times and missed three layups but solid defense allowed the Pioneers to maintain a 3 point advantage, 49-46. At 12:17, Garret Covinton converted a 3-point play and Western took the lead 51- 49 – it felt like another Pioneer game that would come down to the final shot. But, Joe Rosga would have none of it. At 12:37 Rosga hammered home a three point shot to grab the lead back and 30 seconds later, with the shot clock running out, landed another 3-point fall-away to take a 55-51 Pioneer lead. A Thomas Neff 3-point shot and a layup by C.J. Bobbitt kept the Leathernecks at bay, 60-54. A dunk by Duke Douglas at 8:07 gave DU their first double digit lead and breathing room, 65-54. The teams traded points the rest of the way as DU countered each bucket or free throw by the Leathernecks with points of their own to close out the contest 84-70.
Rodney Billups called the contest, “A team effort in the locker room, at practice, and on the court. We are so much better with (Amigo) on the floor – when he’s locked in. Defensively we are much better. When we have an offensive threat by the basket, we are a better team.”
The next game is Saturday at 4:00 pm vs. North Dakota State at Magness Arena.