When Austin Ruder made a free throw with 10 seconds left in regulation, Oral Roberts held a 70-67 lead and it was looking like a back to back first round exit for Denver in the Summit League tournament was likely. Instead, Joe Rosga made a shot for the ages, banking in a three with five seconds to go to force overtime, and despite having to endure a second OT, Denver would come away with the 90-88 victory to advance to the second round of the Summit League tournament.
Denver would get off to a hot start in the first half, with Daniel Amigo scoring six points in the first four minutes and fifteen seconds to give Denver a quick 9-5 lead. That wouldn’t last long though, as Oral Roberts went on a 12-0 run to take a 17-9 lead with 11:23 to go in the first half. It was starting to look like things might take a frustrating turn, but a number of defensive stops, along with a great offensive burst from Ade Murkey, led Denver back to a 32-21 lead with 2:01 to go until halftime. The Golden Eagles would get a three before the half but the Pios would respond with two free throws from Jake Pemberton to take a 34-24 lead into the half.
The Pioneers had some ups and downs during the start of the second half, but it never seemed as if they didn’t have control. A 40-35 lead that was alarming for a second soon enough reached 45-35 after Daniel Amigo made a free throw with 14:42 to go in the game. Denver’s lead was as much as 60-47 with 8:52 to go after an Amigo jumper, but it just wasn’t meant to be a smooth sailing victory. Oral Roberts clawed their way back, grabbing a 64-63 lead 2:24 to go on a Ruder three pointer. Denver would need an Amigo bucket and two Rosga free throws to even be in the position they were with 10 seconds to go… and that is when Joe Rosga did this:
Yep. It was hard to believe that the Pioneers could lose after forcing OT with such a crazy shot and that proved to be true. The first OT was fairly nondescript, with both teams trading leads before Ade Murkey came to the line with 43 seconds left, needing a free throw to tie, and two for the lead. He missed the first, but canned the second for a tie. The two teams traded missed buckets after that to force a second OT, where the real drama was. Denver grabbed a quick 82-78 lead, but it would be 83-83 before they knew it, after Sam Kearns drained a three. Denver took an 85-83 lead before falling behind 86-85 on a Kearns free throw. Rosga would immediately make a jumper, followed by a Kearns response to make it 88-87 ORU with 1:07 to go. Murkey would make a huge bucket with 40 seconds left to give Denver their final lead, 89-88, and a Krafka free throw sealed things up for a final score of 90-88 Denver.
It was a great game for Denver – Amigo had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Rosga had 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists, Murkey poured in 20 with 8 rebounds, and Jake Pemberton had 14 points to go with 4 rebounds. Oh, and Donoven Carlisle had 10 points and 8 rebounds off of the bench. It was a truly well rounded effort and Denver needed every last bit of it. Amigo may have had the best game but it was great to see Murkey have a game like that on such a big stage.
I really can’t say enough great things about this victory – Denver had already defeated the Golden Eagles twice this year, so it was always going to be a struggle to get the season sweep, and we saw that early. But Denver adapted and in the end it is the #3 seed Pioneers that advance to play the #2 seed South Dakota Coyotes. That game will be at 7:30 PM Mountain Time tomorrow night – the Coyotes didn’t have too much trouble with Omaha tonight, but Denver should pose some additional problems. I expect the Coyotes to be a healthy favorite when the line comes out tomorrow (probably 6-8 points), but I think the Pioneers have a great shot. Despite the home court disadvantage, the Pios have proven they can beat USD and Denver is currently riding a five game winning streak and they’ve taken eight of ten. I’m excited for tomorrow night – Denver may not win and make it to the Summit League championship game, but I think it’s going to be a heck of a game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take down South Dakota.