Special to LetsGoDU by: Chris Shockey
In what was supposed to be a battle between the Summit League’s two best big men, only South Dakota State’s Mike Daum brought his A game. Fortunately for Denver, Jake Pemberton more than made up for Daniel Amigo’s below average night.
On paper this looked like it should be an easy win for the Pioneers, the Jackrabbits have struggled under first-year coach T. J. Otzelberger – especially on defense, but Denver had lost four straight to SDSU and when you play the Jackrabbits, Mike Daum is always looming. Pemberton was the story early though, making three quick three-pointers in the first three minutes of the game.
The Pioneers as a team made 7 of their first 9 from long range, but South Dakota State hung around in the first seven minutes of the game. When Daum picked up his second foul with more than 8 minutes left in the first half, it looked for a bit like neither Amigo nor Daum would be a factor. Denver continued to pull away at this point and ended up with a 44-31 halftime lead, in great part due to Pemberton’s 16 first half points.
Amigo continued to struggle early in the second half, picking up his third foul just 12 seconds into the half. This had little effect on the Pioneers though as the shots kept falling and they built their lead up to 18 points – 55-37 at the 16:23 mark of the second half. Throughout the rest of the second half, the Jackrabbits slowly chipped away at the margin, aided by some questionable foul calls and the reappearance of Mike Daum.
The lead was all the way down to 6 points with 1:08 left after a big three from South Dakota State’s A.J. Hess, but that was as close as they would get in their comeback attempt, as Denver made their late free throws and came away with a 91-82 victory. Daum would end up with 29 points in the loss, an impressive showing, but not enough to make up for Pemberton’s night and the Jackrabbits porous defense. Aside from Pemberton, the Pioneers also got double-digit points from C.J. Bobbitt, Thomas Neff, and Joe Rosga. Denver now sits at 13-8 (5-3) while South Dakota State falls to 9-14 (2-6)
The news was not all good for Denver though – with 8 minutes to go in the game, the Pioneers’ Jake Krafka went down with a left ankle injury. No word yet on how severe it is – he was in a great amount of pain, but was able to watch the remainder of the game from the Denver bench. We will all be hoping for a speedy recovery as he has been a key player for the Pioneers when C.J. Bobbitt is on the bench.
In other Summit League games, North Dakota State, South Dakota, and Fort Wayne all won, so the Bison keep a two-game lead while Denver and South Dakota remain tied for second. Speaking of the Coyotes, that will be Denver’s next opponent – this Saturday at 2:15 PM MT in Vermillion, SD. Denver hopes to avenge their only home loss in league play and put themselves in position to get the #2 seed come conference tournament time.