Turnovers Costly As Denver Falls at Montana State 79-65

Once again, Denver got off to a bad start in a big road game, and once again, it was too much for them to overcome. Jake Pemberton and Joe Rosga had big scoring days, but Denver turned the ball over an incredible 28 times, which gave them almost no chance to win tonight. The turnovers were so bad that they completely cancelled out the 42-30 rebounding advantage that Denver had – it was an ugly performance at a time when it would have been very nice to see some improvement.

The game got off to a bad start with Daniel Amigo missing a layup and Devonte Klines drilling a three for Montana State. From there the Bobcats would continue to pull away, getting the lead up to 23-12 after Klines made a free throw with 9:07 to go. Denver showed some fight and got things to 28-23 with 3:58 to go on an Elvin Rodriguez jumper, but Montana State would end the half on an 11-4 run to go into the half with a 39-27 lead.

Denver made a couple of runs in the second half, most notably when a Jake Pemberton three got the deficit to 1 with 15:56 to go and after the Bobcats pushed the lead back to 12, Denver was able to get the lead down to 3 with 2:23 to go, but a series of turnovers at the end killed any chance of a comeback and Montana State made their free throws to come away with a 79-65 win. The game wasn’t quite as bad as the final score indicated, but Denver never had a lead in the entire game, so it is fair to say Montana State dominated things from start to finish.

The highlight of the night for Denver was Jake Pemberton. He had 20 points on 6-9 shooting (2-3 from 3 point land) and 4 rebounds, while only turning the ball over twice. Rosga chipped in 15 points with 4 rebounds, but ended up turning the ball over 5 times in addition to accumulating 4 fouls –  which negated a lot of his impact. Daniel Amigo had 9 points on 4-7 shooting, but he also had 5 turnovers and fouled out.

A lot of Pios had rough nights – Ade Murkey was only 2-8 from the field while Elvin Rodriguez was 1-4 and 0-2 from the free throw line. It was also a frustrating night for Jake Krafka, who only scored 6 on 1-4 shooting from the field while picking up 4 fouls. Amigo and Rosga were the most turnover prone, but five other players had at least two turnovers and four others had one apiece. It was very frustrating in that almost every player contributed to the turnover problem, it wasn’t just a really bad night by one player.

This was another game where the Pios couldn’t live up to expectations – they were 6 point underdogs in Vegas, and in many fans eyes this was a game that should have at least been back and forth with Denver having a chance to win. It’s a frustrating loss because one of the big problems that we have all seen is turnovers, and the turnovers actually got much worse in this game. It’s something that has to improve, but there is little time before the conference season.

Denver has only one nonconference game left – on December 28 against Colorado Mesa in Hamilton Gymnasium. Much like the Johnson & Wales game, we probably won’t learn much from this one since Colorado Mesa is a Division II team and the Pioneers should be able to win fairly easily. Then the conference season starts on December 30 with Denver traveling to Vermillion, SD to take on the South Dakota Coyotes. Until then though, we are left with a lot of unanswered questions about this Denver team. We have seen some regression from individual players as well as problems (turnovers, as we saw tonight) that don’t seem to be improving. The question is whether these are just short term humps that the team will work through in the conference season or if we’re looking at a really long 2017-2018 season. Only time will tell, but Denver will need to improve a lot to compete for a top half finish in the Summit League this season.

8 thoughts on “Turnovers Costly As Denver Falls at Montana State 79-65”

  1. This DU team ranked 344 out of 351 teams in turnovers nationally. It’s often unwatchable basketball, and it’s flat-out embarrassing to see at this level. This is a pretty veteran team that should be improving and competitive at the mid-major level, but just isn’t right now. The coaches can’t seem to fix the problems either, which is deeply concerning heading into league play.

    I want DU and Rodney to win badly. I am really rooting for him and his staff. But I am having a hard time saying this team is well-coached, because I am not seeing enough evidence that DU is well-coached. What am watching is a circus off errors, Well-coached teams just don’t give up the ball that easily. Well-coached teams are not in the bottom third nationally in foul shooting, either. I do like DU’s rebounding, which perhaps the only improvement over the Joe Scott era. But the good rebounding is negated by the sloppiness with the ball…

    Even with the horrible DU TOs, when the Pios cut the MSU lead to 3 with 2:23 to play, I thought they might just pull out the game. But more turnovers and bad free throw shooing did them in when the game was one the line, as MSU made their foul shots down the stretch and DU went about 50% when it mattered. Well-coached teams have a clock management plan for late in games when teams are close, and I’m not sure DU had a plan for the last 2 minutes of the game, when they simply unravelled and ended up losing by double digits.

    I know the coaches know what the issues are, but whatever they are doing to fix them isn’t working. If they can’t slow the turnovers, it’s going to be an ugly league season, With no big men yet on the recruiting horizon and Amigo graduating, the program is stalling at muumuu right now, and may be regressing. I hate saying this, but they need to try something new…


  2. This is a very experienced team and it’s strength should be free throws and turnovers. While Joe Scott’s teams were slow, there was no tolerance for not managing the ‘basics’. That being said, I have personally watched Billups practices and they are tough – and focus on the basics.

    If the answer is talent and size, it is going to take years to fix because DU only stocks their roster with true freshmen. And, their ‘on court’ identity is not clear yet, either. Just a bunch of guys playing basketball. Call me naive but I think they are better than this – but they have to prove it.

    Just disappointing so far with no easy answers in sight. Let’s hope the break gives them some time to fix their problems before a tough Summit League season begins.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If the team continues its floundering ways and doesn’t show improvement in league play, could DU be looking for a new coach this summer?


    1. I doubt it. The cupboard was bare when Billups arrived. He does not have the athletes to play up tempo – and all the scholarships were used up. It is a 3-4 year process for anyone who took over the program. Especially with 4-year players. And, if you notice, everyone wants to play up tempo today so it boils down to having athletes.

      This is a good coaching staff. Let’s just hope that they can win a few games and show progress while they retool.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. First off, the cupboard was hardly bare. Billups inherited a winning team and had a winning team in his first year. Let’s not overstate the task at hand for the new staff, this was not like when Joe Scott took over. Scott brought the Pios program to a consistent level of respectability with some real success before he plateaued. Coach Billups was brought in to take the program to the next level. Rosga and Amigo can play in any D1 conference. Pemberton, Mackey and Neff are solid mid-major players. Conversely, Coach Billups already has 5 of his recruits on the roster, yet his guys have made little impact to date.
        With all that being said, it’s only Year 2 and Billups did have a winning season in his debut. Another recruiting class and we should be able to better gauge the overall product on the floor.
        But let’s face it, this team has regressed and Billups will likely only be able to bring in more 2-star recruits, as that’s the norm at the mid-major level. He will need to adjust, as all good coaches do, to what he has and what he wants his team to be. It’s still way too early to bury the season or on Rodney’s ability as a coach, but there does need to be marked improvement in conference play. In essence, he deserves neither a pass on the team’s performance to date, nor a snap judgement on his brief tenure.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I doubt very much DU fire him, even if they regress this year. Schools pretty much always to give a coach at least three and preferably 4-5 years to evaluate recruiting, retention, talent development and program growth, unless of course there are termination offenses (NCAA violations, legal issues, morals, scandals, etc.)

      If you fire someone after only two years for basketball reasons, it sends a bad message that the school isn’t patient enough with coaches, and your ability to hire your next coach is affected, as good coaches don’t want to coach for a school that doesn’t give them enough time to get their own players in…

      Finally, Rodney is a fellow Pioneer, and that probably also buys him a little more time than others, as DU wants him to succeed very badly. He’s more than just a hoops coach – he’s a part of the face of strategic engagement with the Denver community.


  4. Peg has too much class to do a two year and out see ya deal. Rod will be given a fair shot at building a team. My number is minimum 4 and more likely 5 yrs.
    Secondly, I’m a hockey nut and don’t much care about basketball. In poker you play your best hand strong and fold quickly on weak hands. To me , the main thing is continual emphasis on strong hockey recruiting for the best available talent. Like Alabama does in football.


    1. Did I get your poker analogy correctly? Do you really believe that DU hockey suffers from the school’s attempt to build it’s basketball program? That’s just not true.

      DU Hockey is funded at the very highest levels of the sport, and DU Hockey has every dollar it needs to be a top level program the sport. And DU is a Frozen Four program as a result. Similar situation for Men’s Lacrosse – they get top level funding, and have proven to be a top level program,

      DU does not fund basketball at anywhere near the highest levels of the sport of college basketball. The program is funded well among Summit League level programs, but it’s funded at about 1/5 of the level of a top 15 men’s hoops program. And the expectation level is about 1/5th of what top programs are expected to do.

      In short, DU Basketball’s budget isn’t hurting DU hockey or DU lacrosse. The end game for investing in basketball is all about getting into a better all sports conference, and upping DU’s national exposure.


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