Pioneers Suffer Self-Inflicted Loss to Abilene Christian University – 67-61

Photo: Courtesy of Jason Evans

The Pioneers fell at home 67-61 to the Abilene Christian Wildcats. Sure, the Wildcats are a solid team but it was Denver’s turnovers and free throws that put the Pioneers in a hole – and they could never climb out.

The Pioneers had a whopping 10 turnovers in the first half of play and put up a paltry 21 points to Abilene Christian’s 30 at halftime. Denver shot 33.3% for the half while turnovers continue to plague the Pioneers. Some of this can be explained because Rodney Billups substituted liberally during the first half with many of the new incoming freshmen. Still, it was a collective hole that was dug by freshmen and program veterans alike.

Denver went 0-8 from the line in the second half – to seal their well deserved fate. Abilene Christian canned 10 3-pointers for the night which prevented any hope of a Pioneer comeback (Denver had 9). For the game, the visitors shot 81% from the line and Denver shot 18% – miserable by any standard. At least Denver won the battle of the boards 33-26.

Joe Rosga and Ronnie Harrell, Jr. had 12 points each. Abiola Akintola’s 8 points started a second-half Denver surge but he went 0-6 from the line at critical times during the second half to thwart any hope of a Denver comeback.

Coach Rodney Billups has emphasized the need for Denver to hold their home court and losses like this surely thwart any confidence built during the Kansas State road contest. The best fans can hope is that this is an outlier. Still, so many times in the past, fans have seen this before.

The Pioneers take to the court again on the road against the University of Seattle on Friday, November 23rd.

5 thoughts on “Pioneers Suffer Self-Inflicted Loss to Abilene Christian University – 67-61”

  1. Part of becoming a good basketball program is winning the games you are favored to win, especially at home. DU was a 4.5 point favorite and lost by six. Ugh. The turnovers were horrendous in the first half, but DU seemed to adjust in the second half by not turning the ball over. That said, DU’s two for 11 in free throws (18%) was totally godawful and embarrassing, and that should never happen to any basketball team above sixth graders. These are free points, and a decent college team makes 68-70%. This is correctable with work.

    The one player who really stepped up tonight was Akintola, who had his best stretch of play in his Pioneer career when he confidently began taking the ball to the hoop in the second half. His play kept DU in the game when others faltered, and you could see his confidence growing with every drive.

    I also like DU’s defensive adjustments, where they took away the corner threes that ACU was drilling in the first half. When that happened, ACU started shooting at the top of the key, and the Pios were unable to stop it.

    Rodney is still trying to figure out who is ready for D-I play and who isn’t. Some of the freshmen are excellent out of the chute- Townsend and Gatlin are two who appear already ready for this level. Kurnaz, Lanzi and especially Nzekwesi are still very much growing into D-I players, but this will take time. You can see flashes of talent with all three of them – they just need more seasoning.

  2. Yes, free throws and turnovers were the story of the game. 2 of 11 from the line compared to 13 of 16 – that 11 point differential almost doubles the margin of victory. And many of this misses were just ugly…not even close.
    One of the most frustrating things about tonight’s game was how often they quickly picked up the dribble once they crossed midcourt and how often the help arrived too little (not enough player movement), too late. This not only led to some turnovers, but would get them completely out of sync. This has to improve as well.

    1. Good observation on the dribble pick-ups, Evan.

      The ACU game will provide DU with a plethora of film study opportunities for improvement.

      The one thing that may not show up on film study was missing on-court leadership that the Pios needed down the stretch to finish the comeback. Rosga certainly tried to rally the guys by clapping his hands and exhorting his teammates after DU baskets, but what was really needed was something a bit deeper than hand-clapping and exhortations. Akintola tried to put the team on his back and played amazing (for him) basketball in the second half, but it seemed like he was the only one whose game elevated in the second half. Everyone else played pretty much the same way they did in the first half…

  3. After missing the game against Maine and then reading about the effort vs K-State, I was stoked to see this team in person for the first time. It was a letdown. Pios didn’t deserve this one. Missed free throws, turnovers, and what just seemed like a lack of maturity. It was tough to watch. There’s definitely some talent out there, though.

    Hoping for better results in hockey, volleyball, and soccer this weekend.

  4. Maybe the tournament in Seattle will bring the team together. There is plenty of time for them to establish their confidence and identity.

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