Special to LetsGoDU by Chris Shockey
The good news: Denver doesn’t have any more regular season games against Matt Mooney and the South Dakota Coyotes. The bad news: They may see them again come conference tournament time. Oh, and Mooney is only a sophomore.
After scoring 23 points for South Dakota in a victory at Magness Arena earlier this month, Mooney was at it again today, scoring 27 and grabbing five rebounds in an 88-83 Coyotes win. He was helped by senior Tyler Flack, who was returning from a knee injury that had sidelined him for the past eight games, including the first contest against Denver. Flack appeared to be playing at 100% as he poured in 19 points and collected three rebounds.
It was Denver’s first game in the new Sanford Coyote Sports Center and they got off to a rough start, falling behind 9-4 in the early minutes of the game as Flack scored 4 quick points. Daniel Amigo and Joe Rosga kept the Pios in it early, Amigo even made a three-pointer at the 10:27 mark of the first half, only the fourth of his career. Christian Mackey also had a big first half, coming in after Amigo picked up his second foul and then scoring 7 points in a little over one minute.
Unfortunately, he too picked up his second foul, with 5:53 left in the first half and the score tied at 29. Coach Billups decided to play it safe and kept both Amigo and Mackey on the bench for the rest of the half, hoping to just keep things close. They did just that and it looked like Denver might go to the half only down one, but as time ran out, Mooney made a three-pointer to extend the Coyotes’ lead to four at the break – 42-38.
The second half was back and forth almost the whole way – South Dakota pulled ahead 47-40 after a few minutes but Denver followed that with a run of their own and a Mackey layup with 13:31 to go gave Denver a 55-53 lead. From there both teams got hot and traded buckets for the next nine minutes, leading to what may have been Denver’s best chance to pull away and win the game. The Pioneers had clawed to a 79-76 lead and had the ball with under five minutes to go. Rosga found himself wide open and launched a three that could have given Denver a late six-point lead – instead, it rimmed out and South Dakota would score the five points, giving them an 81-79 lead with 3:29 left in the game.
The Pioneers had plenty of chances after that, but both teams went cold and no points were scored by either team until Mooney (of course) hit a layup with 58 seconds left to give the Coyotes a four-point lead. Denver was never able to get it back under four points as South Dakota made 4/5 free throws in the closing minute and came out with an 88-83 victory.
South Dakota moves to 15-9 (6-3) while Denver falls to 13-9 (5-4).It was a good effort for the Pioneers though, with five players scoring double digits – Rosga (20), Amigo (13), Mackey (12), C.J. Bobbitt (12), and Thomas Neff (11). Much like the loss at Fort Wayne, it hurts to come so close and lose, but it is encouraging to see Denver going basket for basket against good teams on the road.
A loss is a loss though and South Dakota now has the edge over Denver for the #2 seed in the Summit League tournament, with a one-game lead in the standings as well as a head to head sweep. Fort Wayne beat Oral Roberts earlier today so the Mastodons are now tied with Denver for the third spot in the Summit. Omaha can join them at 5-4 with a win this evening against South Dakota State. IUPUI will travel to Western Illinois in tonight’s other Summit League game.