Head Coach Rodney Billups started Joe Rosga and four freshmen against South Dakota. DU held the game close in the first 10 minutes but unraveled the balance of the half. With 7:31 remaining, DU held a 17-15 advantage. But, a 19 – 7 surge , fueled by 3-point shots, started the blowout as DU fell behind at the break 36-22. DU held South Dakota to 42.9% shooting but could only muster 28.6% shooting from the field. Six 3-point shots, most in the final 10 minutes, fueled the Coyotes rout.
The Pioneers started the second half by cutting the South Dakota lead to 9 points. But a 17 point run gave the Coyotes a 60 – 34 lead. The Yotes never looked back as they added seven more 3-pointers (13-29 for the game) in the second half. The end result was another blowout loss with the only highlight freshman David Nzekwesi with 14 points and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes. Four other underclassmen got significant minutes with Jase Townsend (29), Taelyr Gatlin (24), Alperen Kurnaz (31) and Elvin Rodriguez (19) getting floor-time. And let’s hope this continues so Rodney Billups and company can better understand what pieces they have heading into next season.
Following the game, Billups told play-by-play announcer Bill Rogan, “I really need to put some energy and concentration into our young guys (and see what we have).” And yes, it is painful to watch – but necessary.
The biggest issue facing Denver is a porous defense. As a result, the Pioneers can never get on scoring run because opponents can always counter, oftentimes with double digit scoring runs. Add the fact that Denver is last in the nation in covering 3-point shots, opponents always have the Pioneers on their heels. Sure, forty five points is a poor offensive performance for a D1 program but until DU cleans up their defense, they have little chance of winning any of their final three games.
DU only has only one option now – play the underclassmen and prepare for next season.