It is one thing to win a game on your home court against a very good team. It is quite another thing to win a contest when both teams are playing their best. In one of the most thrilling contests in recent DU basketball history, Rodney Billups squad exchanged punches with a veteran Fort Wayne (16-8, 5-5) team and found a way to win. With five seconds left in OT, a chaotic series produced the win – a missed shot from Joe Rosga, a rebound from Daniel Amigo and pass out to C.J. Bobbitt and heave from beyond the arc with no time left in OT found net – and set off a delirious scene at Magness Arena.
It was simply a case of a Pioneer team that refused to give up, refused to back down, and kept the pressure on a veteran Mastodon squad that blinked first.
“I like the result”, said a relieved Rodney Billups. “Our guys fought. Daniel Amigo gave it (the shot) up to C.J.. Usually when you play unselfishly – the ball goes in. I am really happy for him – he had to defend Jon Konchar. We needed him to play well defensively. I am so proud of that kid. I felt comfortable with (playing) the starting five in the second half. I am proud of our bench for staying engaged and cheering the guys on.”
In the first half, Denver came out strong and led 12-6 in the first five minutes with half of DU’s points coming from Daniel Amigo. A bucket by Thomas Neff and 3-pointer by Jake Pemberton were offset by the Mastadons star guard tandem – a jumper from John Konchar and three point bucket from Mo Evans but DU held on to an 18-12 lead. Two three-point shots from Thomas Neff highlighted the next 5 minutes for DU. Neff’s points were offset by layups from Deangelo Stewart and Mo Evans which held DU’s lead to 28-19. In the final 5 minutes of the half, DU missed some easy shots and the Mastodons whittled away at DU’s lead with a jumper from Xzavier Taylor, free throws from John Konchar and a jump shot from Bryson Scott to end the half 35-29 Denver.
In the first three minutes of the second half, DU held a 6 point advantage – but Fort Wayne began to surge. A Mo Evans 3-point shot and a Bryson Scott jumper were followed by a Deangelo Stewart 3-point laser that tied the contest at 43 each. At 13:48, Fort Wayne took their first lead, 47-46, on a Deangelo Stewart layup. DU called a timeout to settle the Pioneers. Two Daniel Amigo buckets and a 3-point basket by Thomas Neff were countered by Xzavier Tayler and Mo Evans layups followed by a dunk by Deangelo Stewart that gave the Mastadons a 2-point lead with 10:00 minutes to go. The teams held serve until a lay-up by Joe Rosga tied the score 61 each with 5 minutes to go. With :47 seconds left in regulation, C.J. Bobbitt tied the game again 69-69. DU got the ball back with the final shot but a Joe Rosga’s try was blocked and the game went into overtime.
Fort Wayne got first blood in overtime when Jordan King drove for an easy layup. Denver followed that with two Daniel Amigo free throws and a Thomas Neff jumper to make it 73-71 Denver. Brent Calhoun tied the game at 73-73 with only :11 seconds to go in OT. That is when the ball went from Rosga to Amigo to C.J. Bobbitt for the long-range 3-point winner. And, of course, pandemonium ensued on the court and in the stands.
In their best defensive effort of the year, the Pioneers held Fort Wayne to 40.8% shooting, secured 39 rebounds to 42, and each squad had 11 turnovers. John Konchar scored a double double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Mo Evans had 18 points and 5 assists and fouled out of the contest. Daniel Amigo had 22 points and 7 rebounds. Thomas Neff was red-hot from the field with 21 points and 5 rebounds. The hero, C.J. Bobbitt, had 12 points and 7 rebounds. One of the less visible highlights of the game was the Mo Evans – Jake Pemberton match-up. All night long, especially on the defensive end, Pemberton battled Evans for everything he earned – it was a pleasure to watch those two give it their all the entire game – until Evans fouled out of the contest.
Denver (15-9, 7-4) remains in second place, tied with South Dakota – one game behind league leader North Dakota State. This sets up a showdown against North Dakota State University Saturday in Fargo, North Dakota where Denver can earn a share of the Summit League top spot.