Photo: Courtesy of regensburgerphotography.com
In case you missed it, DU men’s basketball (10-12 overall, 4-4 Summit) thrashed league-leading South Dakota at Magness Arena by 16 points Saturday afternoon, 84-68.
Joe Rosga scored Denver’s first 13 points and Daniel Amigo did his usual damage on both the offensive and defensive end. But, it came as little surprise to those who watched the game that senior Jake Pemberton was the player of the game – and a key player going forward as Denver has won three of their past four league games.
Pemberton shut down South Dakota’s all-conference guard Matt Mooney with 14 points on 4 of 14 shooting from the field and lit the Coyotes up with 22 points.
Major praise came from coach Rodney Billups: “Halfway through league play, and we have seen all the teams, [Pemberton] is the best defender on our team and I think in this league. And his energy and his effort and toughness makes our team go. He gives us energy to be in the gap, to take charges, to go up vertical, and make guys take tough shots.”
The chart below shows how Pemberton has become more and more of a factor in Denver’s recent resurgence:
A former head coach Joe Scott recruit, Pemberton was named first-team All-State as a senior at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch. A skinny guard at 6’3″, he was lightly recruited. However, his defensive prowess was obvious from the start and he was named the Pioneers’ Defensive Player of the Year last season. However, his entire floor game, especially on offense, is benefiting from Rodney Billups system this season. He is scoring 11.5 points per game, is tied for second on the team in assists (55), leads the team in steals (29), and is shooting .500 from beyond the arc with the best 3-point shooting percentage on the team.
The Pioneers fell below expectations early in the season but seem to be gaining confidence and settling on starting line-ups and substitutions patterns. Denver plays four of their next six conference games at home. So, the Pioneers have a realistic chance to secure third place if they can slip past North Dakota State which holds a half-game advantage. That would give Denver their highest conference tournament seed since joining the Summit League.