Denver (2-7) shot 31.4% for the first half and committed 9 turnovers to fall behind Air Force (4-5), 26-23, at the half. Despite the cold shooting by the Pioneers, the teams exchanged leads during the first half – until the final minute. The teams were knotted at 23 each following a Joe Rosga jumper with 30 seconds to go – but a jumper and a free throw by Air Force’s Scottie Lavelle gave the Cadets a 3-point advantage at the break.
Denver started slowly again in the second half. After 8 minutes, Air Force had built a 10 point lead, their biggest advantage of the night, capped by a 3-point jumper by Keaton Van Soelen. With 7:17 minutes to go, DU freshman guard Joseph Lanzi caught fire with a 3-point jumper to cut the AFA lead to 6 points. Two minutes later, Lanzi delivered again from the arc to cut the deficit to 5 points. A minute later, Lanzi hit a layup at 4:19 to make it 57-54. Lanzi capped his barrage with a final 3-point shot at 2:19 but DU could not make stops down the stretch to close the gap. Air Force hit 11 of 11 free throws in the final 1:09 to coast the rest of the way to a win.
Tory Miller-Stewart, starting just his second game for Denver had 11 points and 3 rebounds in limited action (21 minutes). Surprisingly, Ronnie Harrell, Jr. only logged 19 minutes with 5 points and 3 rebounds. Ade Murkey had a team-leading 10 rebounds but was a miserable 1-10 from the field. Joe Rosga led DU with 17 points and 7 rebounds in 34 minutes. Junior Jake Krafka was in a walking boot and freshmen Jase Townsend was out of the line-up with a practice concussion from earlier in the week.
After the game, head coach Rodney Billups said, “I think our team is getting better. We are getting the best shot of every opponent. We came out lethargic in the second half.” On a positive note, “I thought we played better today with 16 assists. Building these small blocks so we can continue our upward trend.”
Eleven players received playing time for Denver with a wide variety of line-ups and floor combinations. While Denver is giving everyone playing time, does that help explain Denver’s slow start to the season – excluding injuries? Would a steady line-up and extended floor time create more consistent play, reduce turnovers and allow the Pioneers to go on more defensive stops and better scoring runs. The team clearly has depth with the new freshman class but does Coach Billups need to shorten his bench? Time will tell if this is an early season plan to build team depth of if Denver plans to play 10-11 deep during conference play.
Denver returns to Hamilton Gym to take on Western State on Sunday, December 9th at 1:00 pm MT.