Momentum can be an important thing in sports, and as Denver headed into today’s showdown against Fort Wayne on a three game winning streak (including a victory over South Dakota last weekend) they seemed to have all of the momentum in the world. And that would hold would true in this game… for the first two and a half minutes. After that, things fell apart quickly and we saw many bad habits come back to this Denver team. It’s a frustrating setback after such a good run, especially when you dig a little deeper into the stats, as we will in a second.
As I mentioned, the first two and half minutes of the game went well enough. A quick 5-0 lead at the 17:37 masked the fact that the Pios had already missed three shots and committed a turnover, but they had still connected the first punch in this battle against the Mastodons. Unfortunately Fort Wayne would respond by scoring 11 straight points in 1:44 and all of a sudden Denver was looking at an 11-5 deficit. The Mastodons continued from there, getting the lead up to 20-7 at the 10:05 mark before a little Denver run eventually got the score to 24-18. This was a critical point in the game and the Pioneers just couldn’t get stops. They were outscored 18-11 to close the half and went into the locker room staring at a 42-29 Fort Wayne lead.
The second half would start with a Pemberton miss and then a three by Bryson Scott, who absolutely torched Denver for 25 points today. At this point it would have been nice to just see Denver hang around, maybe get it to single digits, make things respectable. Fort Wayne was having none of that though, and continued to keep their foot on the gas, draining threes until the very end with alarming ease. Denver was actually down by 30 at a couple points near the end, but a a late layup by Donoven Carlisle made the final score 91-63 – a 28 point road defeat.
One rare positive takeaway from this game is that Denver was 10-10 from the free throw line. It didn’t end up making a difference in this game, but improved free throw shooting is always important and will eventually make a difference. Ade Murkey had a nice day offensively, scoring 10 on 4-6 shooting, though he also had 4 turnovers, a problem that others shared as well. Jake Pemberton scored 12 but had 6 turnovers, a number that is obviously way too high. Abiola Akintola had a career high 9 rebounds. It’s also worth noting the nice bench performances from Jake Krafka (7 points, 4 rebounds) and Christian Mackey (6 points on perfect shooting from the field and the line).
It was an ugly day for most everyone on Denver today though – Joe Rosga was only 4/9 from the field while Pemberton was 5-14. Daniel Amigo only had 4 points and missed both three pointers that he attempted on the day. The team as a whole had 20 turnovers. Fort Wayne stole the ball 12 times from Denver today while Denver didn’t record a single steal. The Mastodons shot 46.7% from three point land, scoring 42 points just from that. And most concerning, the game just kept getting more and more out of reach as time went on, we never seemed to see the Pios dig deep for that one big run to try to pull things close. It was just a stinker of a game.
Denver will have four days to think about this one and prepare for this next game against South Dakota State at Magness Arena on Thursday, February 8 at 7 PM. A win today would have been fantastic because it’s going to be hard to win this next one. South Dakota State is 8-1, sitting atop the Summit League, and Mike Daum just recently scored his 2,000th point for the Jackrabbits (reminder – he is a junior), with no signs of slowing down. Denver has lost the last three to SDSU, but they did win the game at Magness last year, so it’s not a foregone conclusion that this one will be an L. What I do know is that we will need to see better effort and concentration from Denver if they want to have a chance to take down the Jackrabbits again.