Wounded Pioneers Fall to Bears, 88-72

Photo: Courtesy of twitter –

The Denver Pioneers (2-5) got rolled in the first half, minus three starters, en route to a Northern Colorado Bears (4-1) 88-72 victory. The score was a lopsided 48-29 at the halftime break and the Pioneers substituted liberally down the stretch, getting all five freshmen on the floor during the contest. In the first 20 minutes, the visitors went 9-17 from the arc and shot over 50% to build up a huge lead at Magness Arena and coasted with a double digit lead nearly the entire night.

DU junior Ade Murkey was the star of the night with 31 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists – his career best as a Pioneer. Freshmen guards Taylr Gatlin and Jase Townsend has 8 and 6 points respectively while freshman big man David Nzekwesi showed some soft hands and power inside with 7 points. The energy from the bench definitely improved after what must have been an ugly half-time meeting with coaches and Denver players responded with a respectable second half.

Ade Murkey had a career night with 31 points

UNC had four players in double figures, led by Jordan Davis’ 25 points. The Bears also had 23 points off the bench and a whopping 28 points off DU turnovers.

Insiders are speculating Joe Rosga and Tory Stewart-Miller will return for the Air Force game on December 5th. Jake Krafka is in a full walking boot and his return is unknown at this time. Hard to look at this as anything more than a glorified scrimmage but Denver must take this time seriously to develop some depth, improve their defense play and ball handling and figure out their player rotations. Denver had 15 turnovers for the night – not unexpected for freshmen but unacceptable and fatal come Summit League play.

8 thoughts on “Wounded Pioneers Fall to Bears, 88-72”

  1. Hopes for a 20+ win DU season are rapidly fading, with Denver missing two thirds of its starting lineup, which is really unfortunate, as the team can’t build the needed chemistry with the experienced players who are supposed to lead this team sitting hurt on the bench wearing polo shirts and khakis.

    An optimist would say that that DU is building its underclassmen with experience that will be needed as the season goes on, and that’s probably true. Nzekwesi, Townsend, and Gatlin all show real promise as D-I players.

    But the pessimist will say that this team’s effort level lacks consistency, especially early in games. Additionally the team gives up the ball too many times (sounding like a broken record) leading to terrible point swings, shooting comes and goes, and defensive intensity is inconsistent, bordering on negligent at times. While the players play, it’s also on the coaches to prepare them for better performances out of the chute, and not to wait until halftime when the team is down 17 points at home to adjust.

    Lanzi and Kurnaz both need more development to be effective D-I players– they are still freshmen, so lots of time to do so. Rodriguez and Carlisle are still inconsistent underclassmen but show flashes of excellence here and there. Upperclassmen-wise, you’ve got Akintola who is becoming solid inside finally in his senior year, but has no other effective range outside the paint. Murkey popped off tonight for a lifetime 31-point performance, and as a junior, I hope we see more of this from him. I was beginning to think he’d hit his level and his athleticism was going to to be wasted without the needed confidence to be more effective. Well, if he needed confidence, tonight’s performance should give it to him. Finally, Harrell is a very talented and mostly effective, experienced player. What I would like to see from him is more on-court intensity (especially early in games) and visible leadership with the younger guys. He’s a fifth-year guy who may have professional options after college, if he can up his intensity level and be the go-to guy, especially with key seniors Rosga and Stewart-Miller out of the lineup.

    I think DU needs to get healthy and then get some Ws before conference play begins, then become the team that they were supposed to be this year, while there is still time. But the 2-5 record now sucks, and they know it. They should be 4-3, even with the injuries. Abilene and Fairfield were both winnable games.

    1. I actually enjoyed watching the 2nd half last night. Elrod disappointed me after many good minutes in the Fairfield game. If you want energy to start the game, he’s the guy we should have turned to until we get our 3 starters back. I’ll qualify that by saying we could have found out if he can be a difference maker or not. Harrell is playing his ass off. He should be and is our leading scorer, but not our leader. Grad transfers are one year guys, and one years guys make you better by adding unfound offense and on court calmness. He’s done that. Rosga is our leader. With him out, some player who has been with the program a few years has to be the leader. Honestly, I doubt any of us have any idea what goes on in the locker room. I agree it’s great getting the 5 frosh minutes and comfortable in the D1 game, but it’s just going to take us so long to get a settled coordinated line-up and rotation. That will be our Achilles heal as we get deeper into the season unless we can totally out-talent an opponent. I think Gatlin, Townsend, and David N have shown the can play at the D1 level. Eventually we may have a deep rotation which may throw other teams off.

      1. Interesting take, Dunker, as always. I always appreciate your deep knowledge bank on college basketball.

        Coach Billups said in the post game last night that he needs “more out of Harrell” and while he didn’t specify what “more” means, I interpret that statement as not just points, but floor leadership and intensity. With Rosga, Krafka and Stewart-Miller all out of the lineup, the only upperclassmen left are Akintola, Murkey and Harrell.

        Now I don’t know those three players’ personalities very well, other than what we can see on the court in games, but it appears to me that none of those three guys appear to be very vocal leaders…

        I think Rodney needs more floor leadership right now and he’s not really getting it, and the results speak for themselves. DU is 2-5, and while the talent is there to be better, the intensity and leadership need to come from the upperclassmen, and it’s mostly missing right now…

        As a fifth year guy who’s been a starter in the Big East, I would think Ronnie would command a lot of respect from the team. Maybe not as much as Rosga, who has been the team’s best player since freshman year, but certainly in Rosga’s absence, Ronnie can and should do more than just play ball…

  2. 1st half was abysmal. Turnovers, lack of defensive tenacity, disjointed offensive attack….it was bad. I took my son and I was ready to leave at halftime but he wanted to stick around, maybe just to avoid doing homework. Regardless, I’m glad we did. The 2nd half was much better and at least elicited some hope for the rest of the season.

    Harrell is a stud, but he can’t do it all by himself.

    Based on the schedule, I sure didn’t expect this team to be 2-5 at roughly the 1/4 point. But injuries, poor fundamentals, lack of chemistry etc have been killing this team. I hope things get turned around.

  3. Did you ever think they maybe are just not a good team and that injuries don’t have anything to do with it? I mean they almost lost to Longboard U at home.

  4. Did you ever consider maybe it’s not the injuries and they just aren’t that good. I mean they almost lost to Longboard U! at home!

  5. Still too early to raise the white flag. Once 2 of the 3 starters are back for a few games it will be easier to gauge. The defense and turnovers are a concern – with or without the starters.

  6. Lol…a 20 win season. Y’all needs to put down da crack pipe.

    Lemme break it down for you sucker heads:
    DU basketball sucks. It always has and it always will. The end.

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