IUPUI was 10 of 19 from downtown while Denver was 5-15 from beyond the arc to spell the difference between victory and defeat as the visiting IUPUI Jaguars defeated Denver.
In a rare Sunday afternoon matinee, both the crowd and the team were flat against an energized IUPUI squad that placed a premium on ball pressure. The Jags parlayed a 4 point half-time deficit (35-31) into a 52 to 37 point second half romp en route to an easy victory over the Pioneers. Denver also gave up 18 points in the paint during the second half as the Jags hammered the Pioneers from the inside out.
This loss was a disappointment on a number of levels. The loss puts Denver’s third place standing at risk and virtually eliminates any chance the Pioneers had of catching up with either South Dakota or North Dakota State in the league standings. The loss continued a recent trend of following league wins with league losses and stifled momentum nearing the conference tournament. Finally, the game was lost on DU’s home court, a disappointment to Rodney Billups who has a stated goal to establish a home-court advantage.
In the first half, the Pioneers started quickly in the first 5 minutes with a barrage of Pioneer buckets capped by a Joe Rosga jumper at 14:58, extending DU’s lead to 14-4. That bucket would be the last points Rosga would score in first half. Over the next five minutes, the Jaguars closed the gap to 3 points on a Darrell Combs 3-point shot but DU countered with a 3-point bucket of their own by Thomas Neff to hold DU’s advantage to 6 points, 21-15. A pair of 3’s by IUPUI’s Matt O’Leary dropped DU’s lead to 29-28 at the 4:14 mark. But DU responded with buckets by Thomas Neff and Ade Murkey to finish out the first half. DU went into the halftime break ahead, 35-31.
It felt like DU should have been ahead by more points.
The second half was a total mess for Denver. Two free throws by Darrell Combs at 17:18 drew the game even at 38-38. Over the next 7 minutes, the Pioneers went cold and the Jaguars poured it on, outscoring Denver 22-9 to take a 60-47 advantage with 9:22 to go. Over the next 5 minutes, IUPUI mixed together 3-point shots and layups to extend their lead to 69-55 with 4:46 to go. At that point, all Denver could do was trap and foul. In fact, IUPUI’s guard pressure would not even allow Denver’s perimeter players to hoist up 3’s in the waning minutes to close the gap. DU could get no closer than 11 points to end the game.
After the game, head coach Rodney Billups said, “We can’t give up 80 points at home and expect to win. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves.” On the second half colapse, “We didn’t make the shots we normally make. Their ball pressure really dictated what our guards did. We didn’t play hard. We didn’t concentrate when we needed to. They (IUPUI) played an unbelievable game – they were ready.”
Daniel Amigo finished with 24 points and 7 rebounds. Jake Pemberton chipped in with 16 points and 5 assists. DU won the rebound battle 30-28 but was out-shot, 51.0% to 49.1%, and lost the turnover battle 12-10. However, the most telling statistic was three point shooting as the Jaguars shot 52.6% (10-19) vs Denver’s 33.3% (5-15).
Denver now faces the University of Nebraska Omaha in the Pioneers final home game of the season Wednesday at 7:00 pm MT at Magness Arena. This sets-up a must-win game for the Pioneers to bolster their league standing and, more importantly, build some much needed confidence. It is also Senior Night for Duke Douglas and Josiah Dunn.