Denver held their own for much of the game, and even got the deficit down to three points in the second half, but Stanford proved to be too much for the Pioneers tonight. Despite a couple of standout performances, Denver once again had trouble with turnovers and free throw shooting, something that has plagued the team all year, and something that prevented Denver from completing the comeback this evening.
Denver got off to a terrible start in this game – something that cannot happen on the road against a Pac 12 team if you want to have a chance to win. Stanford scored the first three field goals and a free throw to jump out to a quick 8-0 lead. Jake Pemberton would get Denver on the board with a three at the 16:50 mark, but Stanford kept their food on the gas, racing out to a 25-9 lead after a Reid Travis layup with 11:03 to go in the half. The Pios would outscore the Cardinal in the rest of the first half, but the damage had been done and Denver trailed 37-28 at the half.
The second half started as a mostly back and forth affair, with neither team straying too far from the halftime margin of 9, but about halfway through the second half Denver went a 9-2 run (mostly thanks to Pemberton) and got the score to 56-53 with 9:50 to go. Unfortunately the rest of the second half was very similar to the start of the game, with Denver getting outscored 19-9 as Stanford pulled away for a 75-62 victory that just barely covered the 12.5 point Vegas spread.
It was another great offensive game for Daniel Amigo – he had 18 points on 7-11 shooting and impressively made all three of his three point attempts. Jake Pemberton and Joe Rosga chipped in as well, scoring 13 and 12 respectively, while Christian Mackey had a solid night with 7 points and 5 rebounds. Thomas Neff also contributed 7 points on 3-5 shooting with 4 assists.
Two things that killed Denver once again were turnovers and free throw shooting. Denver turned the ball over 20 times, a figure that absolutely has to improve in the future. Despite his great day on the offensive end, Amigo had 6 of those turnovers, and Rosga had 4 as well. The Pioneers also only made 7-14 free throws, for a clip of 50%, something that also must improve. Rosga had a great day at the line as usual, but everyone else that stepped up made 50% or fewer of their free throws.
It was a frustrating game because Denver was in it for a lot of the second half, and with just a few adjustments (again, free throws and turnovers at the top of that list) they could have been in it at the end. Nevertheless, after the poor start, it was nice to see Denver get it down to a three point deficit in the second half – the fight was definitely there. This was a game that no fans really expected to win, so taking the loss isn’t too terrible, but much like the season as a whole, it was very inconsistent. The Denver team in the first ten minutes and last ten minutes was a completely different team from the one during the middle twenty minutes – it was somewhat maddening to see such drastic changes throughout the course of the game, but it seems to be par for the course with this Denver Pioneers team.
Up next for Denver is a trip to Bozeman, Montana on Monday to face Montana State. Much like the Northern Colorado game, this is a game against a team that should be at a similar or lower level than Denver – but it is on the road. Denver will likely be an underdog, but it’s a very winnable game, and you have to figure they will get over their road woes eventually (thus far they only have four home wins and a neutral court win, no road wins) The Pioneers don’t play again for ten days after their game against the Bobcats (returning home to face Colorado Mesa on December 28), so hopefully they can pick up a win and go into the holidays with some momentum on their side.