Denver Falls in Opener to South Dakota

DU (6-9) faced South Dakota (13-4) Saturday afternoon in Vermillion, South Dakota to kickoff the Summit League conference schedule. The South Dakota Coyotes were picked second in the Summit League preseason poll and are led by talented 6’3″ guard Matt Mooney and posed as a formidable foe, especially at home where the coyotes are now 7-0.

Denver fell 82-71 after a cold spell during the first half along with 16 turnovers and a 3-to-1 free throw disadvantage for the game.

Denver played a solid first 10 minutes and trailed the Coyotes by one, 18-17. Denver took their final lead of the game, 21-20, at 8:31 of the first half. Unfortunately, Denver hit a cold streak between the 8:32 mark and 6:10 which would prove fatal to the Pioneers chances. Denver gave up 12 straight unanswered points capped by a Matt Mooney lay-up. The Coyote run established an advantage that Denver could never close and the first half ended, 54-33 – South Dakota. Denver finished the half with 8 turnovers. Daniel Amigo matched Jake Pemberton’s 8 points at the break. Denver shot 39.4% from the field to South Dakota’s 57.7%. DU’s bench was outscored 11-3.

The teams traded points to start the second half. A Jake Pemberton 3-point shot made it 53-42 and a Daniel Amigo put-back reduced the Coyote lead to 9 points. DU whittled South Dakota’s advantage to 6 points with an Ade Murkey free throw at 13:20 but the Coyotes clawed back to a 64-53 lead at the 10 minute mark. Denver could not close the gap and South Dakota began to pull away over the next five minutes to build a 77-63 margin at the 5 minute mark. From there, South Dakota coasted to a 81-72 victory.

Both  Jake Pemberton and Jake Krafks fouled out in the final 5 minutes. The Coyotes went to the line 36 times during the contest to only 12 charities for the Pioneers. The Pioneers had an unseemly 16 turnovers and the Coyotes scored 16 points off those giveaways. South Dakota was clearly the better team but, ultimately, the 12-0 run in the first half doomed any chance DU had to win the game.

Credit goes to South Dakota’s Matt Mooney with 20 points and 6 steals. Tristan Simpson chipped in with 16 points for the Coyotes. Daniel Amigo had 20 points and 8 rebounds and Joe Rosga had 11 points and 6 assists. DU was out-rebounded 32-27.

Following the game, Rodney Billups said, “Our concentration level has to get better. We have to guard without fouling (despite the officials calls). I like our team….we have to take care of the ball and we have to rebound. We can beat anyone in our conference.”

Today, a solid South Dakota squad showed that Denver has to make significant improvements if they want to compete with the top echelon of the Summit League this season.