Photo: Courtesy of goleathernecks.com
No way to sugar coat this game – it was an embarrassment. Again, it was porous defense on full display that led to the pre-New Years eve collapse. The Pioneers (5-11, 0-2) had high hopes heading into conference play but their play has sunk to a low level that has rarely been seen in DU’s relatively brief D1 basketball history. Western Illinois, ranked #275 in KenPom rankings, thoroughly outplayed the Pioneers Sunday afternoon.
— Denver Men's Hoops (@DU_MHoops) December 31, 2018
Following the contest, even Rodney Billups was questioning why the players didn’t seem to “care about the game”.
No sense getting too deep into all the details. Western Illinois led 36-31 at half. During the second half, the Leathernecks dismantled DU 42-29 and emptied their bench to the delight of the 200 fans in attendance.
The Leathernecks outscored the Pioneers 20-4 to pull away during the second half. DU shot 40% from the field for the game and allowed Western Illinois to shoot 50% from the field. And, as usual, DU led in turnovers 12-9. In a rarity, Denver even lost the rebounding battle – 33-30.
Offense comes and goes but the defense is at the core of DU’s problems. Opponents’ perimeter players are getting wide open, screen switches are slow and the inside game is soft, allowing easy buckets. Denver cannot shoot their way out of their current slump. They need to step up on the defensive end.
Following the game, Rodney Billups said, “We had a lack of effort. It was flat in here (small crowd following women’s basketball game)…The energy went out the window. We never could get any energy.” On why the team performed so poorly: “It appeared that our guys didn’t care about the game. We need to correct our guys. We have a long ride to St. Louis. We are going to meet in St. Louis (team meeting).”
At minimum, this team has lost all of its confidence. At worst, the team has quit on each other and/or the coaching staff. It is time for some serious soul-searching before a promising season is lost.