BOULDER – Denver got 22 points from Daniel Amigo and 15 from Joe Rosga, but it wasn’t enough as the Pioneers were outrebounded 46-23 by the long and athletic Buffaloes in a 27 point loss on Tuesday night.
Denver played well early and even grabbed a 14-13 lead with 10:48 to go in the first half, but Colorado was just too much and closed the half on a 30-19 run to grab a comfortable 43-33 halftime lead. Denver came out strong to start the second half though and got the deficit down to 6 points with 15:45 to go in the game after two Rosga free throws. But Colorado would immediately go on a 12-1 run over the next three and a half minutes that effectively sealed the game. The Pioneers continued to hustle for the rest of the half (save a couple minutes late in the game when the team seemed to lack focus – Coach Billups quickly called a timeout and the focus seemed to come right back, so whatever he said must have worked) but the remainder of the game went much the same until the second half horn sounded with a final score of 89-62.
In addition to rebounding, free throws were also a concern for the Pios tonight as they went 8-18 from the charity stripe while Colorado shot 17-24 from the line. The fouls were actually pretty even, with Denver having 23 fouls called against them and Colorado 22, but a number of misses on the front end of one and ones cost Denver some extra free throw opportunities. It was an uncharacteristically poor free throw shooting performance (the Pioneers were 22-30 against UC Irvine), which is hopefully just a fluke and not a sign of a larger problem.
Despite the jarring final score, there were many signs of improvement from Denver, from better shot selection to making the extra passes that we didn’t see against UC Irvine. Amigo and Rosga are clearly the current leaders of the team, but Jake Krafka, Jake Pemberton, and Elvin Rodriguez all had strong performances against a tough Colorado squad. Rodriguez in particular flashed some signs of brilliance and showed off his ankle breaking abilities – he is going to be very fun to watch this season. On the other side of things, Abiola Akintola continued to struggle, with only one point and four fouls. He now has eight fouls and three points in the first two games – I am going to be watching him closely against Johnson & Wales on Thursday, we’ll need better performances from him if Denver wants to compete for a top three spot in the Summit League.
My main takeaway from this game is that Denver had very little chance from the beginning due to their size disadvantage – so I’m not too concerned about the 27 point defeat – this game was more about improving and coming together as a team, and I think that happened. Let’s face it – the rebounding numbers were extremely one sided tonight, but Denver won’t face many teams as tall as Colorado, so despite the final score, I don’t see this result as cause for alarm.
Denver returns home on Thursday to play Johnson & Wales at 5 PM in Hamilton Gymnasium. As most of us know, Johnson & Wales is a DII culinary school, so this will be a nice chance for the Pios to gain some confidence in what should be a very easy victory.