Late Second Half Run Leads Florida Gulf Coast Past Denver, 79-71

It was another frustrating night for the Denver Pioneers – with the score tied at 60 and 5:27 remaining, Denver was in position to steal a road win against a team that has been to the NCAA tournament in both of the previous two seasons. Instead, Florida Gulf Coast put on a stellar offensive performance in the remaining minutes and hit their free throws to come away with a 79-71 victory in the first game for both teams of the Homewood Suites FGCU Shootout.

Daniel Amigo led the Pioneers with 13 points in a back and forth first half – the Pioneers actually tied things up at 30 with 3:08 left in the half before Florida Gulf Coast went on a mini 5-2 run to close the half, taking a 35-32 lead over Denver into the locker room. The Eagles were led in the first half by Zach Johnson, who had 11 at the break and would prove to be a thorn in the Pio’s side in the second half as well.

Florida Gulf Coast started the second half off with a series of baskets and looked poised to run away, but a flurry of points from Abiola Akintola, Jake Pemberton, and Christian Mackey had Denver right back in it at the under 12 minute break. From there the teams traded buckets until the game was tied with 5:27 to go – but the Eagles closed out stronger, outscoring Denver 19-11 at the end of the game.

The stars of the game for Denver were Daniel Amigo and Jake Pemberton. Amigo ended up with a double double (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Pemberton caught on fire in the second half, where he scored 10 of his 15 total points. Christian Mackey also had an excellent game, scoring 10 points on 5-6 shooting and grabbing 6 boards – he has shown a lot of improvement this season and is averaging 4.7 PPG and 4.3 RPG despite playing only 11.7 minutes a game.

The main takeaway from this game is probably going to be a familiar refrain this season – the defense needs to improve. The Pioneers gave up 79 points, but they did it on only 66 possessions, a figure that will have to improve if Denver wants to make a run in the Summit League. The Pioneers currently rank #271 out of 351 teams in kenpom’s adjusted defense metrics (which adjust for the tempo and talent level of the opposition), which is concerning, but the season is young. The next game should be a good indication of where things are at – Denver plays St. Francis Brooklyn at 2 PM tomorrow – the Terriers lost to Navy today and are not expected to be very good this season. This game might be a small challenge to the Pioneers, but not one they can’t overcome. I’m looking to see an improved defensive performance and I think the Pioneers should be able to get their first victory in the FGCU Shootout tomorrow.

9 thoughts on “Late Second Half Run Leads Florida Gulf Coast Past Denver, 79-71”

  1. I agree with the analysis. Too many turnovers and rotations were slow on defense – they (FGCU) had a ton of easy looks. I liked the fight and you can see the potential. They just need to stay steady in crunch time and play smart.

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  2. This was an interesting away game against a solid NCAA tournament caliber FGCU opponent that is picked to win it’s league (A Sun). DU gave FDGU a battle until the last four minutes, when the more experienced Eagles pulled ahead for good.

    Amigo, Rosga, Mackey and Pemberton played like the upperclassmen they are, and paced the Pios with strong performances. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much coming from the other Pios. If DU is going to be effective, they need more from guys like Murkey, Krafka and Akintola, as well as Rodriguez.

    There were two strange DU decisions made in the final minute or so where the opportunity to steal the game suddenly vanished for the Pios. A strange alley-oop play fizzled into a turnover. Why that was called, I have no idea, as FGCU was ready for it. Additionally, Amigo, who had played an excellent game to that point, made an ill-advised sweeping pass than ended up going the other way, sapping the DU comeback attempt. I would like to see the coaches have more ideas and movement for DU in crunch time. Once again, turnovers and bad free throw shooting for DU hurt them tonight. I can’t understand how guys that get to the D-I level in hoops can’t shoot 80% in free throws – those should be free points, made important because they are scored with a stopped clock. I get the DU turnover problem since DU is moving into a new offensive system, but I don’t understand why so many Pios don’t shoot free throws well. Live and learn.

    The 20 win season Billups wanted is likely not going to happen this year. The Pios will need to keep scrapping to turn losses into wins.

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  3. A further look at the box score is telling. DU outshot the Eagles 50%-48% and also out-rebounded an NCAA tourney team, matched up with points in the paint, and had both teams had about the same bench impact. That’s a helluva road performance by DU.

    But the difference was points off turnovers (FGCU beat DU 24-7 on those) and free throw shooting, where DU was 62% vs FGCU’s 78%. If the Pios can keep shooting well, rebounding well, clean up the turnovers and shoot decently from the stripe, they’ll win their share of games.

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  4. A win over the Terriers today will settle things a bit. St . Francis stinks, and they are a forever Division 1 cellar dweller. However, they probably think they should win today. Navy tomorrow will be difficult, but winnable. Rosga must be good consistently.
    I disagree with Puck’s youth description. 4 starters upperclassmen. A year under Billups. They need to show some grit and smarts.

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  5. Bookies have us a 10.5 point favorite today. Books are smart usually. St. Francis has 3 bigs, 2 from Eastern Europe. Problem is, the bigs are either chubby or 6’9″ and weigh 190 lbs.
    As to my comment on Terriers often being caller dwellers, I consider every Northeast Conference team as a cellar dweller. However, they did defeat #11 Princeton in water polo yesterday.

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  6. It’s not sad…

    I wouldn’t have made DU a favorite in any of those three losses so far. DU’s played three post-season teams in the first three NCAA games — UCI is was an NIT team last year, CU was an NIT team last year playing at home, and FGCU was an NCAA team last year, also playing at home.

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