Denver Falls to Coyotes in Final Minute, 71-70

Photo: Courtesy of Jason Evans

Denver (5-12, 0-3) fell to a depleted South Dakota squad at Magness Arena Wednesday night. DU led nearly every statistical category such as shooting percentage, free throws and rebounding. Unfortunately, it was hot 3-point shooting that propelled the visitors past Denver as the Coyotes sunk 12 for 23 attempts from downtown (52%). The Pioneers canned 3 of 10 shots from the arc but could not keep pace with the torrid outside shooting by the visitors. However, unlike many games this season, Denver’s defense kept the Pios in the game by pressuring the Coyotes and running a more deliberate offense that shot a solid 50% for the game.

While the loss is discouraging in the short term, there are a number of positives to take from this game, especially on the defensive end with improved effort and execution. However, it is clear the season-long defensive problems will not be solved in one game – it will take 3-4 games with this level of effort to consistently compete and win conference games.

The coaching staff started with a more defensive lineup of Joe Rosga, Ade Murkey, Taylr Gatlin, Donoven Carlisle, and Abiola Akintola. While the starters did have trouble scoring early, they set the defensive tone and set the tempo for the offense.

Freshman Taylr Gatlin played a solid 22 minutes.

The first half featured a hot shooting South Dakota team (53.7%-field, 66.3% 3-pt.). At the 5 minute mark, Denver trailed by two, 6-4. At 10 minutes, a dunk by Tory Stewart-Miller pulled Denver within three, 15-12. Denver went cold over the next five minutes, capped by a Troy Burch-Manning dunk, that gave the Coyotes their biggest lead of the half, 31-20. An Ade Murkey dunk at 1:36 pulled Denver within 5 points but South Dakota nailed two 3-point jumpers to take a 43-33 lead into the locker room.

South Dakota shooting cooled off in the second half and DU was hot early – pulling even, 52-52, at 16:52 of the second period. Denver got their first lead at 14:24, 48-47, on a Joe Rosga jumper. Four minutes later, an  Alperen Karnaz 3-point bucket expanded DU’s advantage to 5 points. In less than a minute, South Dakota pulled even and then, took the lead. South Dakota led the balance of the half until Denver tied it up 69-69 at 1:26. Then, DU took the lead when Ronnie Harrell sank one of two free throws from the charity strip, 70-69. But South Dakota countered with a layup with 6 seconds by Cody Kelley gave the Coyotes the lead for good. Ronnie Harrell took the final desperation shot but it fell short. Ronnie had a tough night from the field, shooting 1-10.

Rodney Billups took responsibility for the loss but one could hardly blame the coaching staff when South Dakota shot 20% higher than their season average from beyond the arc. And, Denver had most of the perimeter shots well covered and showed defensive progress inside. Also, what are the chances that Ronnie Harrell shoots 10% for the game? All in all, the shorter bench, more deliberate offense and more disciplined defense gave Denver an opportunity to win the game at the end.

Triston Simpson led the Coyotes with 20 points – 12 points from beyond the arc. Tory Burch-Manning had 18 points and 5 rebounds for the visitors. Joe Rosga finished with 19 points. Ade Murkey had 17 points and Tory Miller-Stewart added 14 points and 6 rebounds in the loss.