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.