Photo: Courtesy of Gonzaga Twitter
Denver (5-9) met a powerhouse Gonzaga team (11-2) which might well be a Final Four team – and the Pioneers learned how far they have to go to compete at an elite level. The Pioneers fell by 61 points, the largest losing margin in Denver’s D1 basketball history. Few expected Denver to win the game but it was the poor start and ragged play throughout the contest that left even DU’s most faithful fans shaking their heads.
Zags win!! Bulldogs post a record 61-point margin of victory and finish with ✋ players in double-figures #UnitedWeZag
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) December 22, 2018
Gonzaga shot 68.4% for the game with many shots coming at close range and supplemented by 10 3-point bombs that punished the Pioneers from the inside out. On the other hand, DU shot 24.6% for the contest and many of their misses were poor shots which fell far from the mark. The contest was played at a Bulldogs pace and it was clear that Denver was outclassed from the start.
The Bulldogs shot 84.6% in the first half, a school record, and took a 56-19 lead into the locker room. The second half was more of the same as the Bulldogs bench meated out more punishment in the final 20 minutes. The fans went wild in Spokane on a Joel Ayayi layup with less than a minute to go took the Bulldogs above the century mark, 101-40.
Rodney Billups was interviewed by Tyler Maun on radio following the contest and was troubled by the effort and result, a margin of defeat unlike anything he had ever experienced before as a player or coach.
The Denver team has a Christmas break before they begin Summit League conference play against Omaha in Omaha on Friday, December 28th.
A season that seemed so promising a little more than a month ago is at risk of unraveling unless the team can better manage their poor starts, turnovers, porous defense and poor shot selection. The bigger question: Does an overwhelming loss like this to an elite Bulldogs team permanently damage the psyche of what appears to be a fragile team?
Time will tell.